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Cornell University 

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First Edition . . • Septimhtr 1904 
Popular Edition . . Augmt 1905 
Third Edition . . • February 1913 



In introducing to the public the Third Edition of 
Laotze's " Simple Way," the writer begs to express 
his appreciation of the favourable reception accorded 
to this translation of the celebrated work of the Chinese 
sage, and desires to take the opportunity to offer a few 
brief comments on the precise meaning of the title of 
the work, which appears to have led in certain instances 
to some misapprehension. 

A great deal has been heard of late years about the 
Simple Life, which everybody appears to advocate and 
nobody follows out. Some laudable attempts have 
been made to get into closer touch with Nature by 
a few enthusiasts who have sought to extort her secret 
by systematically prodding her bare body with dibble, 
fork and spade, displaying thus considerable liveliness 
and not a little simplicity, but wholly failing either to 
make life simple or to attain to the simple life. This 
was inevitable ; for the Way, the Truth and the Life 
that are simple are not to be compassed by Small 
Holdings and a Manual of Husbandry. 

The House-bondman may tend the root of our bodily 
needs, but he does not touch the complex of our higher 
and wider life. 

Yet it is in relation to our principles of life rather 
than our common activities that the Simple Life gains 
its greatest meaning and value. The Simple Life is 


not always the Simple Way. Indeed it is no Way at 
all if it does not lead to the end in view ; and that end, 
I take it, is the ennobhng of individual character, the 
raising of our standards of equity, and the strengthen- 
ing of the bonds of fellowship on the common basis of 
our humanity. 

If the lone furrow leads to this end, let us follow it 
out to its length. If the potato-patch embraces the 
higher needs of the race, by all means let us cultivate 
it. But I think that all such eiforts may be more 
properly regarded as effects rather than causes of in- 
dividual evolution, and as applied to the race at large 
they will be found to play none but an insignificant 
part in a true system of economics. If they loom large 
in the imagination of certain proteidian enthusiasts 
and social reformers, ii is chiefly from lack of a proper 
perspective. Life is not rendered simple by a studious 
regard to the time and nature of our meals. If men eat 
because they are hungry they should eat only when 
they are hungry and take only such foods as can answer 
to the challenge of the sentinel palate. It is possible 
to imagine the alimentary canal as possessing the 
significance of a fire escape, and even to invest it with 
the merits of a spiritual mediator by an over strict 
regard to the mathematics of nutritive values, and yet 
at the same time to render life more complex than we 
already find it. That salvation does not lie that way 
is evident from the teaching of Christ. That it is not 
the Tao is certain, for as Laotze says : Why all this 
straining after effect .? The swan is white without daily 
washing itself and the raven does not renew its colour 
daily. Yet the original integrity of black and white is 
beyond the reach of argument. 

The original simplicity advocated by Laotze is not to 
be confounded with primitive ignorance to which it 
stands in apposition as intuition does to instinct — the 


extreme poles of the scale of mental evolution. It is 
not concerned with eifects so much as causes and yet 
more intimately with principles. It may be regarded 
as the state of mind to which a man attains after pass- 
ing through the zero of complete self-effacement, from 
which he is able to perceive that unity in diversity, that 
underlying identity of things, which Laotze says "only 
the truly wise can understand." 

I venture this preface partly in self-defence, but 
chiefly for the benefit of my readers. The modern 
tendency to regard the externals of life as of paramount 
importance and to invest them with a significance they 
do not really possess in relation to the nature and needs 
of that permanent part of us which we call the Spiritual 
Man, has led many to confuse the complex with the 
simple and to make the whole wellrbeing of man to 
consist in physical culture. They make this the business 
of their lives rather than the cultivation of those 
intellectual and spiritual faculties which are essential 
to the evolving spiritual entity. That this is not the 
Tao-teh the reader of these pages will readily discover. 

That the ancient doctrine of the Tao has exercised a 
great influence upon educated minds in all ages none 
who are acquainted with the history of Taoism can 
doubt. That it still continues to extend its sway 
over contemporary thought is evident from the recep- 
tion which has been accorded to the present exposition 
among numerous others. Its defects are those due to 
lack of knowledge rather than of zeal, and my better- 
informed readers will doubtless supply my deficiency 
and supplement my efforts, for which service I tender 
my thanks in advance. 

W. G. O. 

LoNDONj 1913. 


Preface , 




I. Marking out the Path 




Self-perfection . 



Resting the People 



The Causeless 



The Value of Nothing 



The Origin of Things 

• 33 


Hiding the Light 



The Easy Nature 



Making Things Equal 



What is Possible 



The Use of Nothing 



Shutting the Doors 



Preventing a Fall 



Praising the Void 



Exhibiting Virtue 



Going Home 



Being Natural . 
Patching up 




Reverting to Nature 

■ 54 


Holding Aloof . 



The Empty Source 



Increasing the Small 





Non-Identification . . . . 


Undesirable Honours . 


Apprehending the Void 


The Virtue of Gravity 


The Use of Skill 


Becoming a Child 


Non-Action . 


Declining from Strife 


Ceasing from War 


Intelligent Virtue 


Discerning Virtue 


The Perfect Condition 


The Virtue of Bounty 


The Covert Agreement 


The Art of Government 


Of Virtue 


Tracing the Source . 


Resigning Work 


Like and Unlike 


The Changes of Tao . 


Unlimited Usefulness 


Standing Still 


Indefinite Virtue 


Curbing Desire 


Looking Abroad 


The Distress of Knowledge 


The Virtue of Concession 


The Value of Life 


Cherishing Virtue 


Going Back to the Cause 




LIII. Increasing Evidence . 

LIV. The Root and its Branches 

LV. The Wonderful Harmony 

LVI. The Mysterious Virtue 

LVII. The Genuine Government 

LVIII. Letting Others Reform Themselves 

LIX. Preserving the Tao 

LX. Filling the Throne 

LXI. The Virtue of Humility 

LXn. Practical Tao 

LXni. Forethought . 

LXIV. Guarding the Small . 

LXV. Simple Virtue 

LXVI. Going Behind . 

LXVII. Three Precious Things 

LXVIII. Imitating Heaven 

LXIX. The Use of Supreme Virtue 

LXX. The Difficult Recognition 

LXXI. The Disease of Knowing 

LXXII. Loving Oneself 

LXXIII. Freedom of Action 

LXXIV. The Fault of Coercion 

LXXV. The Evil of Avarice . 

LXXVI. The Danger of Strength 

LXXVII. The Tao of Heaven . 

LXXVIII. Accepting the Truth . 

LXXIX. Keeping One's Bond 

LXXX. Standing Alone 

LXXXI. The Evidence of Simplicity 
Conclusion . • 


There is a Power Divine within the Heart of Things, 
Which circumvents the universe of worlds, and brings 
The Soul of all created things to final good j 
Which, ages gone, did take existence where it stood, 
And slowly fashion'd it to something pure and fair,— < 
Though good in their beginnings all creations were; 
Yet growing better still, and last of all supreme, 
TK intense superlative of Natures pure extreme. 
This Power divine is bodied forth in him whose soul. 
Reflecting Good itself, doth comprehend the whole 
Of less perfected things, wherein the Light divine. 
Though hid by darker veil, hath never ceased to shine; 
By which all will at length but sure resolvld be 
To something good as great, secure as it is free : 
Will be resoh/d again, ere Time its course hath run 
To where in Being's dawn its circle had begun j 
And Earth and errant Man, and Heaven and That divine, 
Like fibres of one heart will blend and intertwine. 



LITTLE or nothing is known in regard to the early 
J life of the old philosopher Laotze, but history reports 
that he was born in the province of Tchu, in the year 
B.C. 604, and he was therefore a contemporary of Buddha, 
in India, whose teachings, as reflected in such works as the 
Dhammapada, bear a remarkable resemblance to those of 
our author. These teachings were at a later date reiterated 
by Plato, and still later by the holy Nazarene. Indeed, 
all the great world-teachers appear to have enunciated 
the doctrine of Simplicity, and to have defined the Path 
in very similar language, but in distinct voices ; all of them 
in contrast to the spirit of the age, and modified only by 
the circumstance of local colouring and inflection. 

We find Laotze at an advanced age acting as curator 
of the Royal Library of Kao, from which he eventually 
retired in order to devote himself to quiet meditation in the 
mountains of the Ling-Po. He had hoped thus to pass 
at once beyond the circle of his worldly activities, as one 
who seeks the quiet and rest of his home after the heat 
and toil of the day. But the fame of the philosopher had 
gone before him. Among his followers was a guard of 
the Kwan Yin Pass. This man looked with jealous eyes 


upon the setting of so great a luminary, and he therefore 
importuned the Sage to commit to writing some of his 
teachings before retiring into seclusion. Laotze therefore 
wrote a book called Tag Teh, to which the Chinese add 
the word " king " as a mark of respect. The philosopher 
thereafter went his way towards the Pass of Hsien-Ku, and 
was no more heard of by mortal man. Such is the simple 
history of the only work ascribed to this great and in- 
dustrious man, who rightly bears the name of Laotze, the 
" Old Philosopher." 

Between Laotze and the historian Sze-Ma, from whom 
this information is derived, there were many exponents 
of the philosophy of the Tao. The chief of these were 
Lieh-tze, Chuang-Tze, Hang-Fei, and Hwai-nan-tze. That 
the philosophy rapidly spread and cast its influence over 
the most learned minds of those days in China, is evident 
from the fact that the Imperial Library of Swei contained, 
at the end of the sixth century a.d., many copies of Laotze's 
work, all largely commentated. Under the patronage of 
the Han Dynasty (b.c. 202 to a.d. 263) the followers of 
the Tao flourished, and the Emperors themselves openly 
expressed their sympathy with the teachings of this school 
of thought. Thus King Tai, who began to reign in B.C. 156, 
ordered that the philosophy of Laotze should be studied 
at the Court, and thereafter the Tao Teh became a classic 
throughout the country, receiving the distinctive name of 

During this period the teachings of Kong-fu-Tze (Con- 
fucius) were much neglected, and rivalry sprang up between 
the adherents of the two systems of thought, very bitter 
criticism passing between them. That the secular teachings 
of Confucius ultimately prevailed, does not detract from 


the inherent virtue of our author's philosophy, but rather 
indicates that the tenets of Confucius were better suited to 
the more active policy of succeeding rulers, and possibly 
also the inability of the masses to appreciate the ultimate 
working value of Taoism, or to rightly conceive the sig- 
nificance of its abstruse and seemingly paradoxical principles. 
Yet the highest truths must ever suffer by popular ex- 
pression, seeing that our consciousness is bounded by 
relativity, and expressed only by reference to "the pairs 
of opposites.'' The sacerdotalism which the philosophy 
of Laotze assailed was akin to the Brahmanism of India 
at the time of Buddha's appearance, and to that of Roman 
Catholicism at the appearance of Luther. 

Laotze was already in the winter of life when Confucius 
paid him a visit in the year B.C. 517, the old philosopher 
being then eighty-seven years of age, and Confucius, who 
was born on the i8th December, B.C. 550, at Lu, only 
thirty-three years. The celebrated teacher of the Tao Teh 
is said to have greatly impressed Confucius, who afterwards 
highly esteemed him. It has been said that Laotze visited 
India in the course of his many travels, but there seems no 
other ground for this statement than the close similarity of 
his philosophy to the principles of the Vedanta, and that 
of his ethical teachings to the contemporary doctrines of 
Buddha. It is to Chuang-Tze that we owe the record of 
the teachings of Laotze, as to Men-Tze we are indebted for 
the records of Confucius. But to neither, it would seem, 
do we owe the presentation of the pure doctrine of either 
of these great teachers ; for Chuang-Tze and Men-Tze, the 
contemporary exponents of the two systems of thought, 
were very bitter enemies, and strong expressions of con- 
tumely are known to have passed between them and their 


respective followers. On the other hand, it is fairly evident 
that Laotze and Kong-fu-Tze were good friends, and at most 
not far divided upon essential points. 

The Rev. Aubrey Moore, in his notes to the translation 
of the Writings of Chuang-Tze, says : — 

" By the time of Chuang-Tze, some two or three centuries 
after Laotze, Confucianism had become to some extent the 
established religion of China, and Taoism, like Republican- 
ism in the days of the Roman Empire, became a mere 
opposition de salon. Under such circumstances the antagon- 
ism between the representatives of Laotze and Confucius 
would proportionately increase." 

The teachings of Confucius were essentially utilitarian, 
capable of very successful application to political, social, 
and moral questions, but containing little or nothing con- 
cerning the nature, origin, and destiny of the human soul. 
This was left to the school of mystical philosophy called 
the Taotze, under the leadership of Chuang-Tze. That 
the teachings of Confucius were not sufficient for the more 
metaphysical thinkers of that day in China is evident from 
the fact that Taoism successfully vied with Confucianism 
for a very long time ; and further, the subsequent introduc- 
tion and wide acceptance of Buddhism shows that the 
spiritual side of Confucianism was inadequate to the needs 
of a vast multitude of people. 

However, Taoism was never a popular or representative 
national religion, and did not succeed further than to secure 
the patronage of some few Emperors, such as Wang-Tai, 
whose name is erased from the sacred records of the 
Confucians, and the adherence of a minor portion of the 
nation. ^ The ancient Shintoism has exerted an influence 
greater in every way than either the teaching of Laotze or 


that of Confucius upon the Chinese as a nation, and the 
reason for this is not far to seek, for it needs only a 
presentation of some of the leading tenets of the Taotze 
to convince one that they would not long survive in the 
estimation of successive rulers with ever-increasing worldly ' 
ambitions. It is not until the eleventh century, and after 
the introduction of Buddhism into China, that we find 
Taoism forming the basis of a definite religious system 
with monasteries and schools, priests and acolytes, and 
all the ritual of an ecclesiastical order under the rulership 
of the Tsung Dynasty. Previously, it bore only the marks 
of an ethical philosophy, and necessarily the crystaUisation 
of the doctrine, together with the "bells and pomegranates" 
and other embroidery of the plain vesture, must be regarded 
as signs of a rapid degeneration in its votaries rather than 
as a reflection upon the tendency of the pure doctrine itself, 
which, as we shall hereafter see, was opposed to the religious 
ritual in all its forms. For Laotze there was but one religion, 
the Way of Heaven (Tao Tien), and its expression was 
spontaneous as between the individual and Nature,) like 
" the prattle of a child in the arms of its mother." 

Before touching upon controversial points contained in 
the present work, it will be expedient to review some of the 
leading tenets of the doctrine of the Tao Teh, as revealed 
in the writings of Chuang-Tze.^ 

"Tao," a term which is said to be equivalent to the 
Sanskrit Eodh (wisdom or enlightenment), and used by 
the Chinese Buddhists to express that state, is among 
the Taotze a mystical term having a twofold significance. 
It is at once the Supreme Reason, the Logos, and Nature 

' The Writings of Chuang- Tze. Trans. H. A. Giles, London. 
Quaritch, 1889. 


the subject of reason ; the Alpha and Omega of all things, 
representing the " diversity in unity of nature, and the unity 
in diversity of God." 

Here, at the outset, we are faced with the antinomial 
and paradoxical element common to all mystical systems, 
and more than usually prevalent in pantheistic conceptions 
sucb as Taoism is said to be. Yet this unity and diversity 
are one, and that One is Tao, and Tao is greater than God 
and greater than Nature, for in Tao both God and Nature 
are as one. 

" Before Heaven was, Tao was. Spiritual things draw 
their spirituality therefrom, while the universe became (by 
it) what we behold it now. To Tao the zenith is not high 
nor the nadir low. No point in time is long ago, nor by 
lapse of ages has It grown old." 

Laotze makes a distinction between the Supreme Source 
of all things — Tao the ineffable, and Nature the mother of 
all things. Tao, the essence of the Universal Spirit, self- 
existent, uncreate and eternal, the source of all creations 
and of all worlds, as of the gods who made and govern 
them, " is by nature One," says Laotze. 

" One and universal is Tao, but the first has produced 
a second and the second a third, and these three are all 
things. In vain may your senses enquire concerning all 
these ; your reason alone can frame anything respecting 
them, and this will tell you that they are only One." ^ 

Tao in this sense seems to correspond to the Parabrahm 
of the Vedantins, the Ain Suph of the Kabalists, the Athyr 
of the Egyptians, and the Monad of the Greeks. Laotze 
says : " A man looks upon God as his father and loves 

> Book of God, p. 36. E. V. Kenealy. 


him in like measure. Shall we not then love That which 
is greater than God?" Hence it appears that in the 
conception of Laotze, Tao is not God, nor Nature, but 
comprehends both God and Nature, being the Supreme 
Essence of both Spirit and Substance. The idea of this 
universal and unchangeable Essence is not better conveyed, 
perhaps, than in the lines of Swinburne : — 

" I am that which began ; 
Out of me the years roll, 
Out of me God and Man, 
I am equal and whole ; 
God changes and man, and the form of them bodily ; I am 
the Soul. "1 

Thus says Laotze : — 

" There is an Infinite Being which was before Heaven 
and Earth. How calm it is, how free ! It lives alone and 
changes not. It moves everywhere, but is not affected. 
We may regard it as the universal Mother. I know not 
its name. I call it Tao." 

Totally unlike the doctrine of Confucius based upon 
Charity and Huty to one's neighbour, the Taotze recom- 
mends the natural expression of inherent virtue, which, 
as the attribute of Tao, will flow through the mind and 
develop the qualities of the Soul in their original integrity 
if its action be unimpeded by the weed-growth of vicious 
habits or the veneer of worldly consequence. For all 
personal effort, forcing of faculty, striving after a semblance 
of that which is already possessed by man through Nature, 
all Egoism in short, is regarded by the apostles of the Tao 
as so much waste of energy^ leading finally to competi- 
tion, strife, self-assertion, dogmatism, interference, tyranny, 
diplomacy, and deceit. 

' Songs before Sunrise: " Hertha." 


Chuang-Tze, the Idealist, the Ezra of Taoism, and the 
Democritus of his day in China, led the reaction against 
the materialist teachings of Confucius, and it is to him that 
we owe our knowledge, however incomplete, of the doctrine 
of Laotze. It is true that his enthusiasm has carried him 
far beyond the original statement of the doctrine as em- 
bodied in the Tao-teh-king. And although, it is true, this 
Philistine has not infrequently called in the Samson of 
Utilitarian Philosophy in order to make sport with him, 
yet we may console ourselves with the knowledge that the 
laugh was not always or finally against the blind man. 
The beauty and power of Chuang-Tze's writings, their 
quaint cynicism and effusive wit, no less than the subtlety 
of metaphor so aptly linked to vigour of expression, have 
placed them deservedly in the foremost rank of Chinese 
literature. He is at all events faithful in his presentation 
of fundamental doctrine, as, for instance, in the concept 
of the Essential Unity of things, that of the Union of 
Impossibles, that of the integrity of Nature, of Freedom 
through restraint of the Senses, of Attainment by Non- 
action, and some others of minor importance. 

In regard to the doctrine of Essential Unity, Laotze says 
that this can only be perceived by "our natural clearness 
of sight," for everyone is born in Tao, from Tao. So 
Chuang-Tze says : " All that a fish requires is water ; all 
that a man wants is Tao." The Union of Impossibles, 
ascribed to Plato, is in Taoism the basic doctrine, and is 
called by our author "the very axis of Tao." He calls 
it the theory of Alternatives, and speaking of the relation 
of the Objective and Subjective, he says : — 

"When one is born the other dies. When one is possible 
tlie other is impossible. When one is affirmative the other 


is negative. Which being the case, the true Sage rejects 
all distinctions of this and that, and takes his refuge in 
God, thus placing himself in subjective relations with all 

The fact that the changing view-point of the thinker does 
not alter the nature of Things-in-themselves constitutes the 
main argument for the essential unity of things. Nothing 
can be added to or taken from one while that One is all, 
and that All one. The objective and subjective worlds 
are not separable except in an absolute dualism, and all 
appearances to the contrary are only appearances con- 
sequent upon the identifying of oneself with one or the 
other standpoint. Hence all distinctions cease, and all 
conflict is at an end in the recognition of this fundamental 
doctrine of the essential unity of things. On this point 
Chuang-Tze is profoundly witty. 

"Only the truly wise," he says, "understand this principle 
of the identity of things. To place oneself in subjective 
relations to externals, without consciousness of their ob- 
jectivity, this is the Tao. But to wear out one's intellect 
in an obstinate adherence to the individuality of things, 
not recognising that they are in fact all One, this is called 
Three in the Morning. What is that? asked Tzu-Yu. 
A keeper of monkeys said in regard to their rations of 
nuts that each should have three in the morning and four 
at night. But at this the monkeys were very angry, so 
the keeper said they should have /our in the morning and 
three at night. And with this the monkeys were very well 
pleased. The actual number of nuts remained the same, 
but there was an adaptation to the likes and dislikes of 
those concerned. Such is the principle of putting oneself 
into subjective relations with externals. Wherefore the 
true Sage, while regarding contraries as identical, adapts 
himself to the laws of Heaven, This is called following 
two courses at once." 


It need not escape our notice, while enjoying the wit 
of this illustration, how fitting is the symbolism employed. 
The trick of comparing the Confucians to monkeys we may 
pass over. But in speaking of the subjective and objective 
worlds, what is more fitting than the use of the number 
seven as representing the totality of things, the seven worlds 
of most ancient conception, with three in the morning and 
four at night, and a basic identity in the nature of the 
things divided? For it is surely well known that the 
number Seven (tsat or tsieh) among all oriental nations, 
as with the Kabalists and the Gnostics, represents satisfac- 
tion, completeness, totality, perfection. The Triad and 
Quaternary, symbolic of Spirit and Matter, are almost 
universally associated with the Noumenal and Phenomenal 
worlds ; the world of Thought and the world of Things ; 
the Subjective and the Objective j with Man, the cogniser 
and thinker, in relations with both. The association of 
" the morning " with the number Three and of " the night " 
with the number Four is an extension, and a familiar one, 
of the gnosis. It relates the Spirit to light and Matter to 
darkness, and recalls the Two Worlds of the Rosicrucian 
philosophy and the all-embracing dogma : Demon est Deus 
inversus. So also with the Egyptians, man, compounded 
of Soul and body, is represented to be in continual relations 
with the two worlds, of which the initiated carry the key. 
It is expressed in the symbol + called Ankh, i.e. I, the 
Ego, the embodied soul. 

The doctrine of Teh, or true virtue, teaches that things 
are what they are, not by virtue of the names we give them, 
nor by reason of the way in which we view them, but be- 
cause of their natural affinities and antagonisms, their 
inherent qualities, their place in the scale of creations, and 


hence by reason of the uses to which they can naturally be 
put. < i^ao gives us the true perception of the natures of 
things and Teh instructs us as to their uses. And the 
right use of things, according to Laotze, lies in the natural 
and unimpeded existence of every form of life. Thus the 
virtue of a tree is in its growth, the putting forth of leaves 
and flowers and fruit. But if a tree be trained to make 
much wood and the wood be cut to make a coffin, two 
things are by that circumstance lacking in virtue ; the tree, 
in that it has ceased to be a tree and become in part a 
coffin, and the man, who would hoard up a carcase and 
deprive Nature of her dues. The flowers simply live and 
grow, and no one denies that they are beautiful. The good 
man confers a blessing on the world by merely living. 

From such considerations Laotze disagreed with Con- 
fucius as to the ultimate utiHty of his doctrine of Charity 
and Duty to one's neighbour. ^*Truth does not proclaim 
itself," said the Sage, " virtue does not display itself, neither 
does reason contend with a man^ perfect courage is not 
unyielding, neither is charity displayed in action. Virtue con- 
sists in being true to oneself and charity in letting alone." 

" By the virtue which is not intentional," says the Sage, 
" even the supernatural may be subdued." Therefore 
-''Charity and Duty to one's neighbour are not essential 
virtues, but simply the accidentals of virtue; and "except 
a man be perfect he cannot determine their place,"-' says 

So Chuang-Tze writes : — 

"All the world knows that the virtue of doing good is 
not essential virtue," and, indeed, it is easy to see that 
" doing good " may be but the blundering of ignorance, the 
inconsequence of vice. 


"The man of virtue remains indifferent to his environ- 
ment. His original integrity is undisturbed. His know- 
ledge transcends the senses. By virtue of which his heart 
expands to enfold all those who come to take refuge there- 
in. Going forth without effort, advancing without design, 
all things following in his wake. Such is the man of 
complete virtue." 

Of such an one it is said : — 

" He will bury gold in the hillside and cast pearls into 
the sea. He will not strive for wealth nor fight for fame. 
He will not rejoice in old age, nor grieve over early death. 
He will hot take pride in success nor feel remorse in 
failure. By gaining a throne he is not enriched, nor can 
world-wide empire give him glory. His glory is to know 
that all things are One, and life and death but phases of 
the same existence." 

The contrast of these teachings, resting as they do on 
the fundamental concept of the perfection of Tao (as 
embracing both the providence of God and the integrity 
of Nature) with those of the Confucian school which sought 
to enrich the mind of man with rationalism, his life by arts 
and sciences, and his morality by civil government, is very 
striking, and nowhere more marked than in those passages 
in the writings of Taoism which deal with the nature of 
true virtue and the end and aim of the virtuous. 

Philosophy, it is argued, causes dissensions and fills the 
mind with doubts. Arts create appetites which science 
cannot satisfy, thus rendering life full of misery and man 
an object of pity; while civil government, which hedges 
the man about with laws, takes away liberty, destroys free- 
dom of action, and undermines the foundations of true 
morality. That this was the view of life taken by Laotze 
is evident from the following caustic admonition to Con- 


fucius when discussing with him the favourite theme of 
charity and duty to one's neighbour : — 

" The chaff from winnowing will blind a man so that he 
cannot tell the points of the compass. Mosquitoes will 
keep him awake all night with their biting. And just 
in the same way this talk of charity and duty to one's 
neighbour drives me nearly crazy. Sir, strive to keep the 
world in its original simplicity. And as the wind bloweth 
wheresoever it listeth, so let virtue establish itself Where- 
fore this undue energy, as though searching for a fugitive 
with a big drum ? The swan is white without a daily bath ; 
the raven is black without daily colouring itself The 
original simplicity of black and of white are beyond the 
reach of argument. The vista of fame and reputation are 
hardly worth enlarging. When the pond dries up and the 
fish are left upon dry ground, to moisten them with the 
breath or to damp them with a little spittle is not to be 
compared with leaving them as at first in their native rivers 
and lakes." 

No use to regret the state of things "that are not as 
they were,'' unless it inspires the hope that some day we 
may regain the child-state we have lost. And the belief 
that man's departure from the state of pristine purity was 
included in the scheme of human evolution — a belief 
founded on the mere existence in our day of so many 
acquired evils, quite as much as upon the partial realisation 
in ourselves of a divine inflection — this belief, I say, in- 
spires us with the hope of an eventual restoration of 
mankind to its divine heritage. Indeed, it would seem 
that the world is even now in a state of transition from 
the Tao of native purity to the Tao of acquired virtue, 
from a condition of primitive innocence to that of ultimate 


This is the view taken by Edward Carpenter in his 
Civilisation : its Cause and Cure, wherein he says : — 

" Possibly this is a law of history, that when man has 
run through every variety of custom a time comes for him 
to be freed from it — that is, he uses it indifferently, accord- 
ing to his requirements, and is no longer a slave to it ; all 
human practices find their use, and none are forbidden. 
At this point, whenever reached, ' morals ' come to an end 
and humanity takes their place — that is to say, there is no 
longer any code of action ; but the one object of all action 
is the deliverance of the human being, the establishment 
of equality between oneself and another, the entry into 
a new life, which new life, when entered into, will be glad 
and perfect, because there is no more any effort or strain 
in it ; but it is the recognition of oneself in others eternally." 

Laotze taught that the supreme virtue was only to be 
recovered by man on his return to the true life. This is 
effected by what is called "fasting of the heart," that is, by 
self-abstraction, the higher indifference, or non-attachment 
to the fruits of action. It is not effected, we are told, 
by specific acts of charity, nor by religious austerities, 
nor by striving after the great and cherished ideal, but 
simply by being oneself, by the spontaneous expression of 
one's own nature, and by submission of the will to the laws 
of Heaven. 

"The pure men of old," he says, "acted as they were 
moved, without calculation, not seeking to secure results. 
They laid no plans. Therefore, failing, they had no cause 
for regret; succeeding, no cause for congratulation." Be- 
lieving in the perfection of Nature as comprehended in 
God, they did no more than live, breathing with their 
whole being in the unrestrained joy of existence, and not 
seeking to make the human supplement the divine. Why 


all this straining after wealth and fame, as if the getting 
of these were the end and aim of life? Why, indeed, 
except for the satisfaction of those desires which have 
become the needs of our existence? Would it not be 
easier for us all to take the counsel of Laotze, the advice 
of Democritus, and make our wealth to consist in the 
reducing of our wants? 

" You are going too fast," says Laotze. " You see your 
tgg and expect it to crow. You look at your bow and 
expect to have broiled duck before you. I will say a few 
words at random, and do you listen at random. How does 
the Sage seat himself by the Sun and Moon and hold the 
universe in his grasp? He blends everything into one 
harmonious whole, rejecting the confusion of this and that. 
Rank and precedence, which the vulgar prize, the Sage 
stolidly ignores. The revolutions of years shall pass him 
undisturbed, aeons of ages shall leave his soul unscathed. 
The universe itself may pass away, but he will flourish still. 
How do I know that the love of hfe is not after all a snare? 
How do I know but that he who dreads to die is like a little 
child who has lost his way and cannot find his home ? " 

This " fasting of the heart," or self-abstraction by means 
of which the possession of Tao is effected, is not, as some 
may think, the indifference which has its root in self-love, 
save in so far as that love of Self includes the welfare of 
all living things. The doctrine of Non-action does not in- 
culcate bodily withdrawal from the world of action. This, 
to certain natures, would be to some extent easy of accom- 
pUshment, especially in the direction of abstaining from 
action that was uncongenial to them. " It is easy enough 
to stand still," says Chuang-Tze ; " the difificulty is to walk 
without touching the ground." By this we understand that 
it is hard to act except in response to earthly attractions, 


or to make real progress without change of position. It is 
in the sense of non-attachment of oneself to the fruits of 
action that this doctrine of Non-action is to be understood 
and received. It is not by action in relation to oneself 
that liberty is obtained and Tao realised. The Vichara 
Sagara, an Indian scripture, has this significant passage : ' 
" By the action of walking a place is reached, but Moksha 
(liberation) cannot be reached by any action, since the 
Spirit is everywhere present." The doctrine of Renuncia- 
tion, as the means of salvation, is familiar to the Christian 
mind, and present in every true system of religious thought. 
Self-abnegation, as the way to possession, yet not involving 
the desire to possess, is thus referred to in the Bhagavad 
Gitk (chap. V. 10-14) : — 

" He who acts without attachment, dedicating all to the 
Supreme Spirit, is not touched by sin, as the lotus leaf 
is not wetted by water. . . . The doer of right action, 
abandoning its merits, attains rest through devotion. The 
doer of wrong action, attached by desire to its fruits, 
remains bound. . . . The Spirit creates neither actorship 
nor acts in the world, nor yet the connection between action 
and its results ; but Nature does so continuously." 

By acting while separating oneself from action, and by 
reaching the fruit of action without desiring it, man ceases 
to identify himself with good or evil in the world and 
reaches a state wherein diversity is perceived as unity, and 
all distinctions cease. Hope is no more, there is nothing 
unfulfilled ; ambition has no aim, for all things are attained j 
and effort has no use, for necessity has ceased. 

" Then Sorrow ends, for Life and Death have ceased ; 
How should lamps flicker when their oil is spent ? 
The old sad count is cleat, the new is clean ; 
Thus hath a man content." — Light of Asia, Book viii. 


Then follows the question, Can one attain liberation for 
oneself alone ? Laotze says No. Buddha says No. Christ 
says No. Not one of all the great Teachers and Saints 
ever desired or thought of such beatitude for himself alone. 
Indeed, it seems to be a law of spiritual evolution that the 
nearer one comes to the attainment of spiritual bliss the 
less he desires it for himself alone. 

" Can one get Tao so as to have it for one's own ? Your 
very body is not your own, how then should Tao be? 
If my body is not my own, pray then whose is it? It is 
the delegated image of God. Your life is not your own; 
it is the delegated harmony of God. Your individuality 
is not your own; it is the delegated adaptability of God. 
Your posterity is not your own ; it is the delegated exuviae 
of God. You move, but know not how. You are at rest, 
but know not why. You taste, but know not the cause. 
These are the operations of God's laws. How then should 
you get Tao to have it for your own ? " ^ 

We may now turn to the work in hand, the Tao-teh-king 
of Laotze. There can be little doubt that any translation 
from the Chinese is capable of extreme flexibility and 
licence, of which, indeed, the translator must avail himself 
if he would rightly render the spirit rather than the letter 
of the text ; and the spirit, after all, is the essential thing, 
if we follow the teaching of Laotze. It is safe to say that 
the more literal the translation may be the more obscure 
is its meaning. This is due to the difference of construction 
in the two languages, and the great flexibility which attaches 
to the use of the Chinese monosyllables (the same word 
being constantly used in varying mood) and the entire 
absence of any rules of syntax. In addition to these 
' The Writing! of Chuang-Tze, 


ordinary difficulties, the particular inflection of many terms 
used by our author to express abstract principles has oc- 
casioned many differences of translation. To take only 
a few instances of words which have been much discussed 
among translators, the word Tao (principle) has the sig- 
nificance of the Way, and carries a mystical signification 
very difficult of direct expression and similar in this respect 
to terms used by mystical writers the world over. The 
word has been variously expressed by the terms Logos, 
Voice, Way, Path, Truth, Reason, etc., and these cannot 
be taken Hterally when referring to the Supreme Cause. 
Moreover, although it would appear that Tao corresponds 
in meaning to such terms as Parabrahm, Ain Suph, etc., 
yet the context will not admit of an uniform adherence to 
any of these or their English equivalents. The Logos, or 
Word, as expressed in the Chinese, is not rendered by Tsae, 
Yen, or Yin, which refer to the ordinary means of expression 
by sound, but is compounded of two radicals, Show, which 
means head, beginning, source or origin, and Cho, to go 
forth upon the path; hence, the First Emanation. "• M. 
Abel Remusat said of this word Tao : " It does not seem 
capable of proper translation save by the word Logos in the 
triple sense of Sovereign Being, the Reason, and the Word." 
Mr. Balfour, in his translation of Chuang-Tze, has employed 
the word Tao as a synonym of Nature, and though no 
doubt his conception of Nature may be of something that 
transcends the senses and even the reason, yet it is doubtful 
whether he would carry it so far as to include the statement 
of Laotze concerning Tao, in the sentence : " It is more 
ancient than God." Tao as the Way is understood by 

' Tao or Taou is not a radical. It is frequently translated by 


Balfour to mean the Processes, Methods, and Laws of 
Nature ; Tao as the Reason is taken to mean the Intelligence 
working in all created things, producing, preserving, and 
life-giving; while Tao as the Doctrine denotes the true 
Doctrine respecting the laws and mysteries of Nature. 
Thus the Way, Reason, and Doctrine of Tao are referred 
to the effects, causes, and principles embraced in the being 
and operations of Nature; and the philosophy of Laotze 
is thus held to embody a system of thought which engages 
the intuitional, rational, and perceptive powers of the human 
mind in regard to the great subject of thought, Man, the 
cogniser of Nature. 

It is permitted to think, however, that Tao, as embracing 
both God and Nature, is altogether beyond the reach of 
human thought, certainly beyond definition, and referring 
to a state of Being of which we have not the remotest 
logical conception, and possibly only the vaguest intuitive 
apperception. By the use of the scientific imagination we 
may possibly extend our conception of the operations of 
Nature until it assumes the attributes of Deity ; and in all, 
and through all, and around all is God — the Essence, the 
Life, the Intelligence — working, breathing, illuminating, 
present in every operation ; scintillating in the very minds 
that think these things, making their conception possible. 
For whatever we may predicate of God or of Nature, above, 
around, below, within, beyond all is that, the ineffable and 
inscrutable Tao. The term seems rather to be the equiva- 
lent of the mystical term Sat, of the Vedantin philosophy, 
used to designate the superlative state of Pure Being, itself 
unrelated while comprehending all relations. 

The word Teh (virtue) is understood to be the equivalent 
of the Buddhistic term Dharma, as being the mode of 


expression proper to Tao in its manifestations ; its true 
meaning is conveyed in the words " virtue " and " use," the 
central idea being that of proprium, that which is proper to 
the nature of a being or thing, apart from the accidents of 
human polity, custom, and usage. 

Tien is a word frequently used by Laotze to designate 
Heaven as a state of being, and also in reference to the 
Deity, as in our own phraseology. So by the phrase Tao 
Tien we may understand the Law of Divine Being, literally 
the Way (Path or cleavage) of Heaven. By Tien Teh we 
connote the Divine Operation, literally "Heaven-virtue," 
the virtue of everything being in its use. As to the phrase 
Tao TeA, which constitutes the title of this book by Laotze, 
we may use either the Law of Virtue, Path of Virtue, or 
any other phrase which connote the ideas of God and 
Nature and their operations in relation to man. The title 
after all is of subsidiary importance, and it would seem 
that we need not be too solicitous of names when the 
things themselves so far escape us. In translatiiig the title 
Tao-Teh-King, M. Julien adopts the phrase, "The Book 
of the Way and of Virtue.'' But while using this form 
in the title, he retains the word Tao in the text, and does 
not always translate Teh by the word "virtue"; and no 
doubt this method is warranted by the fact that no single 
term can be uniformly fitted to its context throughout the 
work. The extreme flexibility of the term Tao I consider 
to be most appropriate to the view of it presented in 
various parts of the book, as, for example, in chapter i. 
and chapter iv. In this respect it is similar to many of the 
terms used in the mystical philosophies of India, Greece, 
and Egypt, terms which escape definition by their wide 


As it is impossible to separate the ideas of operation and 
agent, virtue and being, as if one should speak of the 
Thinker as apart from thought, or Thought apart from 
the thinker, it cannot be said that Laotze's work deals 
with two independent subjects, as suggested by M. Julien's 
title : Of the Way, and of Virtue ; and a form has therefore 
been adopted in the present instance which preserves the 
connection of the Tao and its TeA : " The Simple Way." 

It should be remarked that the headings of the chapters 
form no part of the original work, but have been added by 
one of its many commentators. They are retained in the 
present version because of their quaint fitness. 





The Tao that is the subject of discussion is 
not the true Tao. 

The quahty which can be named is not its 
true attribute. 

That which was before Heaven and Earth 
is called the Non-Existent. 

The Existent is the mother of all things. 

Therefore doth the wise man seek after 
the first mystery of the Non-Existent, while 
seeing in that which exists the Ultimates 



The Non-Existent and Existent are identi- 
cal in all but name. 

This identity of apparent opposites I call 
the profound, the great deep, the open door 
of bewilderment. 

The Old Philosopher must not be mistaken for a Gymnast 
in thus placing his subject at the outset beyond the pale of 
discussion. Behind Brahma the Vedantins have placed Para- 
brahm ; beyond the Elohim the Kabalists have set Ain Suph, 
an unfathomable depth of unthinkable mysteries, upon the 
clear surface of which, as upon a veil, a man may write what- 
ever name he pleases ; or standing there, robed in the thought 
of his own divine kinship, the pure in heart may look into its 
crystal depths and see Himself reflected. Can any man by 
searching find out God? asks the Hebrew. The Christ said, 
" The pure in heart shall see God." Laotze will tell us later on 
in his book the means whereby the seeker shall find, whether 
within himself or in the universe without. But since know- 
ledge can only affirm, while doubt may reason and discuss, it 
is certain that " the Tao that is the subject of discussion is not 
the true Tao." And further, because to qualify is to define, 
and to define is to limit, and because every limitation connotes 
an imperfection, we can name no quality which is the real 
attribute of Tao. The Causal Principle of all effects Laotze 
calls the Non-Existent. The well-known philosophical gamut 
of Principles, Causes, Effects, and Ultimates is reduced by the 
Sage to the Non-Existent and the Existent, for seeing only 
One Cause (Tao), he regards all else as a single Effect (Nature). 
By Heaven we may therefore understand the spiritual, causal, 
or noumenal world, and by the Earth the material, physical 


world of effects. Matter is the ultimate expression of Spirit, 
as form is that of force, and hence for every spiritual force 
there is a corresponding material form, and these, like the 
Non-Existent and Existent, are "identical in everything but 
name." We have, therefore, the philosophic square — 

Spirit. Force. 


Matter. Form. 

This identity of apparently opposite things the Sage very aptly 
calls the "open door of bewilderment," by which anyone may 
enter into the secrets of Nature, if only he knows the way. 



When the world speaks of beauty as being 
beautiful, ugliness is at once defined. 

When goodness is seen to be good, evil is 
at once apparent. 

So do existence and non-existence mutually 
give rise to one another, as that which is 
difficult and that which is easy, distant and 
near, high and low, shrill and bass, preceding 
and following 


The Sage therefore is occupied only with 
that which is without prejudice. 

He teaches without verbosity, he acts with- 
out effort ; he produces without possessing, 
he acts without regard to the fruit of action ; 
he brings his work to perfection without as- 
suming credit ; and claiming nothing as his 
own, he cannot at any time be said to lose. 

Laotze is not here concerned with the philosophic discussion 
of the "pairs of opposites," nor does he concern himself with 
the laws of Thought by which this dualism is induced in us, 
for he has already dispensed with the subject by affirming their 
essential identity ; but he shows that while we are in a state 
of separateness from Tao, this relationship of the mind to one 
thing at a time is the cause of endless contradictions and 
diversities. By pointing the fact that Beauty and Goodness 
are only recognised as beautiful and good from a consciousness 
of their opposites, he suggests that if they were qualities in 
universal possession they would be unrecognisable as such, for 
ugliness and evil would disappear with the consciousness of 
such qualities by comparison. 

The all-sufficiency of Tao is illustrated in the last stanza by 
the Ufe of the Sage. It is worthy of note that the doctrine of 
"acting without regard to the fruits of action" is the basic 
teaching of the Bhagavad Gitk, and is acknowledged to be the 
finest ethical scheme ever presented to the world. In this 
spirit the Christ said to his disciples, " These things I do not 
of myself, but of the Spirit of God which dwelleth in me." 
For none can assume credit to himself without having regard 
to the fruits of action. "~^ 




Avoiding distinctions of merit among the 
people prevents jealousy. 

Not setting a value on rare things prevents 

Not seeking the things of sense keeps the 
mind in peace. 

Thus the Sage governs by ridding the heart 
of its desires, giving the stomach due satis- 
faction, by resting the muscles and strengthen- 
ing the bones, by preserving the world from a 
knowledge of evil and hence from its desire, 
and by making those who have such know- 
ledge afraid to use it. 

He acts by non- action, and by this he 
governs all. 

If merit and the reward of merit were taken away and in- 
tegrity and virtue allowed to be their own reward, whatever 
good might be done would be done for its own sake. What a 
weeding out of political and social adventurers there would 
be ! The world would produce sound fruit, without the maggot 
of selfishness hidden at the core. If diamonds were as common 


as pebbles on the shore, they would be little esteemed. Only 
those who set a value on rare things can say why diamonds 
are to be desired. It is certain that we cannot eat them, nor 
gain any intelligence from them, nor do they conduce to our 
spiritual welfare in any way. For cutting and grinding they 
have hardly an equal, but if you want stones broken on the 
highway, you had better find a man. Yet neither the jewel nor 
the stone-breaker assume any merit. It is we who esteem the 
one and disparage the other, thus putting a premium on theft 
and discounting honest work. The Sage begins by governing 
himself before setting out to govern others, according to the 
wise old saying, " Ching ke, hwa jin," i.e. " First straighten 
yourself, then correct others." The Sage lets good alone and 
corrects the evils which are within his reach. Having got rid 
of Selfhood (the Ahankara of the Indian philosophy), he acts 
from unselfish motives, and so establishes a virtuous govern- 



Tao is without limitation; its depth is the 
source of whatsoever is. 

It makes sharp things round, it brings order 
out of chaos, it obscures the brilliant, it is 
wholly without attachment. 

I know not who gave it birth ; it is more 
ancient than God. 


Tao is said to "make sharp things round." By this ex- 
pression we may, perhaps, understand its universal adaptability 
and persuasiveness, no less than the perfection of its processes. 
So in the expression, '■'■Hang tsun fang peen," i.e. "Always 
respect square-convenient," we have the idea of making square 
things round by adapting our actions to the likes and dislikes 
of others, or, as we say, making room for others. The perfect 
man is symmetrical : he has no sharp points of contention, his 
adaptability is perfect, his intelligence is constructive, he brings 
cosmos out of chaos. In brilliance he is like the sun, which 
obscures the light of the stars, his radiance falling on all alike, 
for the wise man " has no predilections." This virtue is in Tao, 
by which man is made perfect. 

The philosophic scale of Laotze appears from the last stanza 
of this chapter and from other passages of his book to be as 
follows : — 

Principle . Tao I heaven] 

Cause . . God J I Cogniser, Man. 

Effect . . Creation Uarth 

Uhimate . Use ) J 



Neither Heaven nor Earth has any pre- 
dilections ; they regard all persons and things 
as sacrificial images. 

The wise man knows no distinctions ; he 
beholds all men as things made for holy uses. 

The celestial space is Uke unto bellows — • 
though containing nothing that is solid, it 


does not at any time collapse ; and the more 
it is set in motion, the more does it produce. 

The inflated man, however, is soon ex- 

Than seK-restraint there is nothing better. 

The perfect impartiality of Heaven in its dispensations to 
mankind has often been the subject of discussion, of deep 
thought with the learned and devout, of unbelief and scoffing 
with the ignorant. The operations of Nature are equally im- 
partial ; but this being evident and overwhelming to the senses, 
it cannot be mocked at nor denied. The ignorant are con- 
cerned with effects, the wise have more regard to causes. The 
Sun shines upon the .just and the unjust with equal radiance, 
the soil responds in equal degree to the touch of the honest 
and dishonest worker. The same Nature supplies all their 
needs, the same Heaven overarches them. The wicked man 
equally with the good procreates and sustains his species. 
What is the reason of this ? The Sage says, what we have 
elsewhere learned, that " God is no respecter of persons." 
Neither Heaven nor Earth have any regard to merit or de- 
merit in the person, but both have a great regard for use. 
" Take what thou wilt, but pay the price," is the divine man- 
date, says Emerson. Therefore, if any man would sow, let 
him sow ; and if any man would reap, let him reap. Heaven 
is the great husbandman and Earth the great granary. Every 
man will be paid in kind, according to the measure of his use. 
Thus the Sage, keeping close to God and Nature, regards all 
men as " vessels made to holy uses." The virtue of Heaven is 
its expansiveness, the virtue of man is his manhood. The 
Sage concerns himself with this, and keeps himself within 
proper limits. 




Like the river in the valley, the spirit is never 
dried up. 

I call it the Mother-Deep. 

The motion of the Mother-Deep I regard 
as the origin of the Heaven and the Earth. 

Forever it endures and moves without de- 

The great flowing rivers of China would satisfy this simile 
of the inexhaustible nature of the Spirit, while others would 
not. The Mother-Deep is, as already shown, regarded by 
Laotze as a substantial Essence continually in a state of 
activity. Its modifications have produced every celestial and 
terrestrial object and creature. In this form it seems to corre- 
spond to the A'tmk of the Hindu philosophy, which by differ- 
entiation is the Mula-prakriti or Root-Substance of the uni- 
verse, akin to the Protyle of Crookes, or the World-stuff of 
Clifford, but by no means to be confounded with them. Prim- 
ordial substance is in all systems of cosmogony likened to 
deep water or the Ocean. Thus we have in the Hebrew scrip- 
ture, " Ve-Ruach-Elohim merechepeth ol-peni he-mayim," i.e. 
" The Breatff of Elohim fluttered upon the face of the Deep " 
(Vulg. " The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters"). 
That this Mother-Substance is an eternal Essence is evident 
from the phrase, " Forever it endures." Being subject to the 
laws of its own nature, " It .moves without design." That it 


does so, does not preclude the idea of a co-ordinate Intelli- 
gence, of which its movements are expressive. That the 
whole activity of Nature is intelligible, probably intelligent, 
seems acceptable to the reason ; but it can hardly be said to 
be purposive. The purpose (not the purpose of our conception, 
but the inherent purpose) lies not in the activity nor in the 
mode of activity, but in the Intelligence which directs it to 
definite and preconceived ends. Such Intelligence must be a 
primordial correlate of Life and Substance, regarding these 
latter as synthetic of all modes of energy and all states of 
matter. Otherwise we should have blind force acting in blind 
matter, making of the intelligible Cosmos only a "fortuitous 
concurrence of atoms" — a concept long since abandoned by 
every honest thinker. And so because Intelligence and Pur- 
pose must be ascribed to the User of things rather than to the 
things used, Laotze says of this Mother-Substance, " It moves 
without design." 



Both Heaven and Earth endure a long time. 

The cause of their endurance is their in- 
difference to long life. 

That is why they subsist. 

Thus the wise man, indiiFerent to himself, 
is the greatest among men, and taking no care 
for himself, he is nevertheless preserved. 

By being the most unselfish he is the most 
secure of aU. 


Regarded merely from the pathological point of view, this 
indifference to life being the probable cause of long life, would 
appear to be a fact in Nature. The familiar saying that care 
killed the cat — and cats have a reputation for being wonder- 
fully tenacious of life — is intended to mean that constitutions 
which can withstand the attacks of disease and all the incon- 
veniences due to exposure and privation will readily succumb 
to the effects of " carking care." Of course, it may be also said 
that pleasure will kill as soon. But pleasure would never 
corrupt a man if he did not first corrupt pleasure. There is 
only one antidote for care, and that is carefulness. And 
because there is nothing more deadly than life the Sage 
secures himself by his indifference to it. Being indifferent 
to life, he is, nevertheless, careful of its uses, and so secures 
all the fruits of life without desiring them. Thus he is wholly 
free from care, and his old age is full of contentment. 



The greatest virtue is like water ; it is good 
to all things. 

It attains the most inaccessible places with- 
out strife. 

Therefore it is hke Tao. 

It has the virtue of adapting itself to its 

It is virtuous like the heart by being deep. 


It is virtuous like speech by being faithful. 

It is virtuous like government in regulating. 

It is virtuous like a servant in its ability. 

It is virtuous like action by being in season. 

And because it does not strive it has no 

Laotze here wishes to say, and says in the most effectual 
manner, that the heart that is not deep, the speech that is not 
faithful, irregular government, a servant without ability, and 
action out of season, are without virtue. Principal among the 
qualities of water are its universality, its moUience, its adapt- 
ability, and its steadfastness or incompressibility. In this it is 
like the Tao, for while it accommodates itself to the dimensions 
and shape of every vessel, it is nevertheless steadfast and un- 
yielding. It is at once the softest and the most irresistible of 
things. It flows of its own accord to the lowest places, yet is 
found in the most elevated. It is deeper than the deepest mine 
and higher than the loftiest mountain. It seeks the line of 
least resistance, and therefore it makes most progress. The 
virtue of Tao is manifold. The use of water is manifold. 
Nature cannot do without water, and Heaven cannot do without 
Tao. Man, who is related to both God and Nature, needs 
both water and Tao. This is the mystery of the saying, 
"Except ye be born of water and the Spirit, ye cannot be 




It is advisable to refrain from continual reach- 
ing after wealth. 

Continual handling and sharpening wears 
away the most durable thing. 

If the house be full of jewels, who shall 
protect it ? 

Wealth and glory bring care along with 

To stop when good work is done and honour 
advancing is the way of Heaven. 

The Sage here advises us to leave well alone and give our- 
selves some rest. It is better to have a little and be able to 
hold it, than to have much and be in constant dread of losing 
it. " What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and 
lose his own soul ? " For in spite of this age of shams, imita- 
tions, and appearances, the jewel is ever more to be considered 
than its setting. It is well to know when to stop in the getting 
of either wealth or fame. What is the use of acquiring over- 
much of what we cannot hold for long ? Every dead man will 
get his laurels. A live man has only to deserve them. And 
after all, as the immortal bard says, " He is well paid that is 
well satisfied." How often a fortune is lost by a man grasping 
at the last penny when he is sure of the pound ! How often a 
good picture is spoiled by the last stroke of the brush ! There 
is evident satisfaction in contentment and undoubted virtue in 




By conserving the natural and spiritual powers 
it is possible to escape dissolution. 

By restraining the passions and letting 
gentleness have sway it is possible to con- 
tinue as a child. 

By purging the mind of impurities it is 
possible to remain untainted. 

By governing the people with love it is 
possible to remain unknown. 

By continual use of the gates of Heaven 
it is possible to preserve them from rust. 

By transparency on all sides it is possible 
to remain unrecognised. 

To bring forth and preserve, to produce 
without possessing, to act without hope of 
reward, and to expand without waste, this is 
the supreme virtue. 

Unfortunately the Sage does not give explicit instruction 
how to conserve the natural forces so as to escape dissolution, 


but he certainly gives us some lucid hints both as to that and 
as to the preservation of the spiritual powers also. There is 
in the East a system of psycho-physical culture called Yoga 
(union, at onement), which aims at the unification of the natural 
and spiritual powers in man, by means of which it is said a 
man may retain his bodily and mental powers for an indefinitely 
long time. The great exponent of this system was Patanjali, 
whose work, the Yoga Sutra, or Philosophy of Atonement, is 
divided into two sections — " Hatha Yoga," or physical culture, 
and " Raj Yoga," mental culture. The purport of the work 
may be summed up in these few words : Regulate the breath, 
steady the mind, rid the heart of its desires, and enjoy peace. 
Whether Laotze is referring to any such system, it is difficult 
to say ; but this we know, his body was full of vigour at ninety 
years of age, and his intellect commanded the esteem of no 
less a luminary than Confucius. But then, as he himself says, 
"the Sage gives without possessing." The lapse of twenty- 
four centuries has not diminished the light of his philosophy, 
which is only now beginning to be appreciated in the West. 
Laotze has surely escaped dissolution in the wider sense. 

Probably the whole key to this conservation of the natural 
powers lies in the last stanza of this notable chapter. It is a 
fact that the systole and diastole movements of the brain 
(cerebrum) are synchronous and commensurate with those of 
the lungs. In some way living and breathing are more in- 
timately related than is implied by ordinary comment, for not 
only is breathing the natural condition of living, but the kind 
of breathing denotes the habit of living. The slowest breathing 
animals are the longest lived. Moreover, the connection between 
breathing and thinking is not sufficiently recognised by the 
people. In anger a man breathes stertorously and quickly ; in 
fear, he suspends breathing ; in surprise, he catches his breath 
spasmodically ; in profound thought, his respiration is slow and 
deep. Further, there is a measurable variation in the period 
and force of respiration when thinking of things of contrary 
natures, as black and white, high and low, pushing and pulling. 


The breathing follows the thought. So by steadying the mind 
we steady the brain, regulate the breathing, and so control to 
a large extent the combustion of tissue in the body. It is 
possible to affect the mental processes by a reverse use of this 
method. As to which is the easier, or eventually more effective, 
whether to control the mind by means of the breathing or the 
breathing by means of the mind, is a matter that may be left 
to the consideration of physiologists and psychologists. 

But Laotze makes the science of life to depend on virtue, i.e. 
use. It is, perhaps, better that a child should die in virtue 
than that a man should live a long time and not be in virtue. 
The one makes a natural use of its small powers, while the 
other has greater powers and yet cannot use them aright. To 
come to mature years without loss of virtue is what Laotze calls 
"expanding without waste." 



The thirty spokes of a carriage wheel uniting 
at the nave are made useful by the hole in 
the centre, where nothing exists. 

Vessels of moulded earth are useful by 
reason of their hoUowness. 

Doors and windows are useful by being 
cut out. 

A house is useful because of its emptiness. 

Existence, therefore, is like unto gain, but 
Non-Existence to use. 


Laotze here teaches the value of self-effacement and obscur- 
ity — the virtue of humility. Having already called Heaven and 
Earth the "Existent," and Tao the "Non-Existent," he here 
shows their relationship. The Existent is the concrete thing, 
the Non-Existent the virtue of the thing by reason of which it 
exists. Thus a vessel of earth is fit to contain a something, 
but the containing is not a property of the vessel, such as is its 
material, coadherence, and form. Its containing is a virtue or 
use gained by its relationship to something else, namely, that 
which is contained ; and since it has no use apart from its 
containing, that which is contained is what gives it a use, and 
by reason of which it is called into existence. So man, the 
Existent, is the vessel of earth, and Tao, the Non-Existent, is 
what gives him a use. If a man is full of vanities, how can 
Tao fill him? It is only a question of the Fang peen once 
more, i.e. " making room " for Tao by ridding the heart of its 



Light will blind a man, sound will make 
him deaf, taste will ruin his palate, the chase 
will make him wild, and precious things will 
tempt him. 

Therefore does the wise man provide for 
the soul and not for the senses. 

He ignores the one and takes the other 
with both hands. 


The Sage here shows how the senses may be ruined by 
surfeit, and how faculties designed for use and the pleasures of 
use may be spoiled through excess. In the Bhagavad Gitk 
Krishna instructs Arjuna in the necessity of restraining the 
senses. He compares them to unbroken horses harnessed to 
the chariot or vehicle, i.e. the human body. The driver 
{Manas, the mind) controls the horses by means of the reins 
of Reason, and by the power of the Will finally masters them. 
Throughout this classic the Reason is opposed to the Senses 
and the Will opposed to the Passions. Indeed, there are 
grounds for believing that the Great War between the Kurus 
and Pandus is intended to depict only this strife between the 
Reason and Sense, or the Will and Desire, in man. Our author 
here takes the same line of instruction, and shows the futility 
of depending on the senses for our happiness and welfare. 
On the frieze of the Parthenon of Athens the same lesson was 
taught, as one may readily see if he examines it intelligently. 



Honour and shame are the same as fear. 

Fortune and disaster are the same as the 

What is said of honour and shame is this : 
shame is abasement, which is feared whether 
it be absent or present. 

So dignity and shame are inseparable from 
the fear which both occasion. 


What is said of fortune and disaster is this : 
fortune and disaster are things which befall 
the person. 

So without personality how should I suffer 
disaster or the reverse ? 

Therefore by the accident of good fortune 
a man may rule the world for a time. 

But by virtue of love he may rule the world 
for ever. 

Hatred, also, is akin to fear, for we only fear that which is 
inimical to our natures, and which therefore is the subject of 
our hatred. So because we fear disaster as threatening us 
continually, we dislike disaster ; and fear is the state of the 
person who is in danger of honour or dishonour, good fortune 
or shame. Certainly both honour and good fortune are a 
danger to us, in that we are continually in fear of losing 
them, which is worse than never having had them at all. 
To rid ourselves of the sense of attachment is to free our- 
selves from the fears incidental to personality. Fame and 
fortune are things which appertain to earthly rulership, while 
love is that whl'^i belongs to the government of Heaven. 




Ie. Plainness is that which cannot be seen by 
looking at it. 

He. StUlness is that which cannot be heard 
by listening to it. 

We. Rareness is that which cannot be felt 
by handling it. 

These, being indiscernible, may be regarded 
as an unity — I H W, Tao. 

It is not bright above nor dark beneath. 

Infinite in operation, it is yet without name. 

Issuing forth it enters into Itself. 

This is the appearance of the Non- Apparent, 
the form of the Non-Existent. 

This is the unfathomable mystery. 

Going before, its face is not seen ; following 
after, its back is not observed. 

Yet to regulate one's life by the ancient 
knowledge of Tao is to have found the path. 


That which appertains to the Absolute must necessarily be 
in terms of the Ta-poo (not that), and the attributes of the Tao 
are therefore put in the negative. This method is followed by 
the Nistika philosophers of India, who aflfirm the noumenal 
by negation of the phenomenal, as in the Dwddas'a Sloki of 
S'ankarS-charya, which begins — 

" Na bhumir na toyam na tejo na vayur na kham 
Nendriyaitwd, na teshdm samuhah : 
Anekdntikaiwdt sushupyeka siddhah : 
Tadekovashishtd Siva kevaloham," 
That is— 

" I am neither the earth, water, luminosity, atmosphere, nor ether ; 
I am not the senses which cognise them, nor all these together," etc. 
". . . I am that sole remaining imperishable Siva." 

Thus while refusing to define and limit Deity to the concep- 
tions of the human mind, they content themselves by saying of 
whatsoever may be affirmed concerning it, " It is not that." So 
with Tao, it is inclusive and summative of all known things and 
qualities, while not identified with any, nor defined by any 
known attributes. It cannot be seen, heard, felt, yet it is every- 
where present. It is attributeless, non-apparent, and has 
therefore no name. It is the Unmanifest. It is also the Non- 
Existent, for " issuing forth, it enters into Itself." Mr. Chalmers 
has taken the cryptogram, le. He, We, as identical with 
the Yod He Vau (I H W) of the Kabalistic name for Deity. 
It is here evidently a glyph for Tao. Time after time one 
suspects Laotze of having had access to some of the mystical 
writings of the West, and even to the Hebrew Scriptures, so 
closely does he voice phrases and ideas already familiar to our 
minds. Whether this be so or not we have no certain means 
of judging, though it is reasonable to suppose that as curator 
of the Royal Library he had access to every sort of book that 
had then found its way to China. It is hardly credible, how- 
ever, that in the sixth century B.C. even the elements of the 
Kabala could have reached the Far East. 


The words Path, Doctrine, and Tao are identical as applied 
to the subject of Laotze's book, and the reader may use which- 
ever word seems to him most in accord with the spirit of 
the context. 



The ancient wise men were skilful in their 
mysterious acquaintance with profundities. 

They were fathomless in their depths ; so 
profound, that I cannot bring them forth to 
my mind. 

They were cautious, like one who crosses a 
swoUen river. 

They were reserved, Uke one who doubts 
his fellows. 

They were watchful, like one who travels 

They were retiring, like snow beneath the 

They were simple, like newly felled timber. 

They were lowly, like the valley. 

They were obscure, like muddy water. 


May not a man take muddy water and 
make it clear by keeping still ? 

May not a man take a dead thing and make 
it alive by continuous motion ? 

Those who follow this Tao have no need of 
replenishing, and being devoid of aU proper- 
ties, they grow old without need of being 

To what order of "wise men" Laotze here refers it is difficult 
to say with any degree of certainty. It is well known that 
Tchang Ki and Yao and some others among the ancient rulers 
of China had the reputation of being men of exceeding good- 
ness and wisdom. " Wise men of old," such as Seth and Enoch, 
who " walked with God," are frequently referred to in sacred 
and classic writings. At least fifteen centuries before the time 
of our author the Pyramid of Ghizeh was built under the 
direction of Khufu (Cheops) on the instruction, it is said, of 
one of the Hyksoi or Shepherd Kings. At even an earlier 
date a great civilisation was in progress in Egypt, and it is 
known that astronomical records were made in China as far 
back as B.C. 2448, as appears from the Shu King. There is, 
indeed, ample evidence to show that in very ancient times — 
ancient even from the standpoint of Laotze, who lived 2,500 
years ago — it was possible for men to have passed through all 
the accidents of life in a high order of civilisation, and to have 
finally abandoned themselves to the getting of wisdom, having 
found that all else was " vanity and vexation of spirit," as did 
Solomon the King in his day. Reference is made in the Scrip- 
tures to the ingenuous and spontaneous nature of the ancient 
Sages — "Wise men of old spake as they were moved by the 


Holy Spirit." There is no reason to suppose that all tne wise 
men are included in Scripture history, nor that they were all 
crowded into the comparatively narrow geographical limits of 
the Hebrew records. China also had its patriarchs long before 
the Hia dynasty was established in the year B.C. 2205, and it 
seems probable that some of them were fully entitled to the 
name of Philosopher and Sage. Whoever they were, Laotze 
had sufficient knowledge of their wisdom to hold them in the 
very highest esteem. The phrase, "May not a man take a 
dead thing and make it alive by continuous motion?" appears 
to have reference to the ignition of sticks by friction, and other 
means of inducing activity in inert bodies. 



Having emptied yourself of everything, re- 
main where you are. 

All things spring forth into activity with 
one accord, and whither do we see them re- 

After blossoming for a while, everything 
dies down to its root. 

This going back to one's origin is called 
peace ; it is the giving of oneself over to the 


This giving of oneself over to the inevitable 
is called preservation. 

He vi^ho loiows this preservation is called 

He who knows it not continues in misery. 

He who knows this preservation is great 
of soul. 

He who is great of soul is prevailing 

Prevailing, he is a king. 

Being a king, he is celestial. 

Being celestial, he is of Tao. 

Being of Tao, he endures for ever; for 
though his body perish, yet he suffers no hurt. 

This law of Change, this springing forth into activity and dying 
down to the root, is everywhere observable in Nature. Indeed, 
it is so apparent, so much in the nature of things, that it is a 
subject of marvel that the idea of death is yet unfamiliar to the 
human mind. Nowhere do we find humanity reconciled to the 
circumstance of death as to the inevitable, although it is a fact 
in Nature as certain as the rising of the Sun. Can it be the 
protest of the Soul, itself immortal, against association with a 
state so strange to it as death ? Yet it is curious that, however 
long a man may live, the end always comes to him and to 
those around him as something awful, mysterious, and strange. 
Perhaps it is that we are too full of plans for to-morrow, too 


full of unsatisfied ambitions and desires, that a sudden inter- 
ference with our plans is a thing hard to accommodate. 

Therefore the Sage says, "First of all empty yourself of 
everything, give yourself over to the inevitable, and go back 
Home in peace." Secondly, he says, " Having done this, you 
v^ill be preserved, you will be enlightened, will be great of soul, 
a king, a celestial being, and finally will become at one with 
Tao." So in India they say that he who goes back to this 
condition of childlike simplicity, this condition of original 
purity, is Buddha (enlightened), Mahatma (great of soul), Ra- 
jarshi (king of wisdom), Mahadeva (a celestial being), and 
finally becomes at one with the Paramatma (the Universal 
Spirit), having attained Moksha, or liberation. 

We prate a good deal about freewill, and continually find that 
what we claim for ourselves is not greater than that which may 
be claimed for others. What little we have is so insignificant, 
especially when we consider the ignorance which directs it and 
the gloom in which it is exercised, that we may as well give it 
over to God and enjoy His Omnipotence. It is universally 
observed that the higher a man's state of evolution, the greater 
is his respect for law. In this respect it may be said that the 
desire for freewill in the unit is akin to ignorance of cosmic 
and spiritual laws. Intelligence consists in the recognition of 
the law, and the desire to avail oneself of its operations. 
Ignorance, however, runs counter to the law at every turn, and 
but for the preservation of Heaven would speedily end in self- 




In the first age of mankind the people recog- 
nised their superiors. 

In the second age they served and flattered 

In the third age they feared them. 

In the fourth age they despised them. 

Where faith is lacking it does not inspire 

How careful they were in their expressions I 

When they had done a good thing they 
would say, " How very natural we are I " 

The Four Ages known to the Ancients, and passing current 
among all nations, were known as (i) the Golden Age, (2) the 
Silver Age, (3) the Copper Age, and (4) the Iron Age. The 
Sanscrit literature contains frequent mention of these Four 
Ages under the the following names : Satya, Treta, Dwapara, 
and Kali (Yugas). The first age was that of integrity, the 
second that of decline, the third that of good and evil, and the 
fourth that of darkness. These were again subdivided into 
lesser ages going by the same names. The Mahayugas, tH 
Great Ages, had reference to cosmogenesis j the Yugas, or 


lesser ages, to human evolution and the history of the race. 
They are all astronomical periods, being based upon the 
motions of the heavenly bodies. Thus it has been shown 
that the sum of the Four Ages, amounting to 4,320,000 years, 
is the least common multiple of all the planetary periods ; that 
is to say, it is the time required for all the planets of the solar 
system to complete their revolutions and come to the same 
point of the Zodiac at the same time, and it has also been 
shown that the included periods or Ages are njarked by the 
concourse of several planets in the same part of the heavens. 

Laotze here shows the attitude of the people towards their 
rulers in the Four Ages, marking the deterioration of confi- 
dence between them. If the attitude of the world towards 
religious thought be considered in the same light, it will be 
seen that the statements are by no means inapt. The Sage 
further shows that the consciousness of doing good robs 
action of its pristine virtue. When good flows naturally from 
the heart there is no effort in doing good, and therefore no 
consciousness of merit. Our author is satirical in the last 
stanza of this chapter, but he need not have gone back to 
the fourth age to find an illustration. It is another instance 
of his inoffensive nature. 



When the great Tao is lost men follow after 
charity and duty to one's neighbour. 

When wisdom has met with honours the 
world is full of pretenders. 


When family ties are severed then filial duty 
and parental indulgence take their place. 

When a nation is filled with strife then do 
patriots flourish. 

This is a notable chapter. It is evident that Laotze's book 
was written after the enunciation of the Confucian doctrine of 
Charity and Duty, and at a time when that doctrine had 
attained sufficient recognition and popularity as to be worthy 
of notice. This agrees well with the data at our disposal. 
Confucius is said to have propounded his doctrine about the 
year B.C. 520, when he was thirty years of age. He travelled 
through the principalities of China exhorting the people to 
cease from their intestinal wars and to return to the unity 
of the Empire. In B.C. 517 Confucius visited Laotze, as 
already stated in the Introduction hereto. It was after his 
eighty-seventh year, which would fall in B.C. 517, that Laotze 
retired from life in the service of the State and betook himself 
to the mountains. It follows, therefore, that the Tao-teh-king 
was written soon after B.C. 517, if not in that year. In this 
chapter Laotze refers to the doctrines of Confucius as a system 
of " patching up " of that which is already worn out. The 
so-called virtue of Charity and Duty to one's neighbour, the 
recognition of wisdom and' learning by marks of merit, filial 
duty, and parental indulgence, are all regarded by the Old 
Philosopher as so many marks of degeneracy in the people. 
Against them he -sets the natural virtue of integrity, and to 
this he would have us revert. The marks of integrity are 
summed up in these two words : God and Nature, godliness 
and naturalness, Tao and Teh. 




By giving up their self-righteousness and 
abandoning their wisdom the people would 
be immensely improved. 

Forsaking Charity and Duty to the neigh- 
bour, they might revert to their natural 

Abandoning excellence and foregoing gain, 
the people would have no more thieves. 

The cultivation of these three things has 
been a failure, therefore should they go back 
whence they came. 

As for you, do you come forth in your 
natural simplicity, lay hold on verities, restrain 
selfishness, and rid yourself of ambition. 

The subject of the last chapter is here continued. The Sage 
advises us to abandon all this effort for worldly esteem and 
honour, and to revert to our first estate, to simplicity, truth, 
unselfishness, and contentment. Having been born of water 
(Nature) and the Spirit (God), we are regenerated and " be- 
come as little children." There is now no longer any effort 
in our lives. We know nothing of duty, but we are masters 


of virtue ; we make no effort, but we accomplish all that is 
necessary ; we do not seek gain, but Nature provides for us ; 
we do not excel, but the whole world revolves upon us. Our 
very weakness is a tower of strength. If we are assailed, all 
the world rushes to our help. Our simplicity is greater than 
the wisdom of the Schools. If we speak, no man suspects us 
of an evil motive. Even Death cannot reach us, for we are 
already "of the kingdom of Heaven." Evidently, there is 
great virtue in this " Original Simplicity " of which the Old 
Philosopher speaks. 



Dispense with your learning and save your- 
selves anxiety ; the difference between certainly 
and perhaps is not much after all. 

Do they help us to distinguish between 
good and evil ? for one must always be care- 
ful of distinctions ! 

Alas ! but the people wUl never be free 
from their folly. 

They are filled with ambition, as the stalUon 
ox is filled with lust. 

I am singular in my bashfulness, I am de- 
void of ambition, I am undeveloped as a little 


I am but a waif, a stray, a child without a 
a home. 

All others have an excess of good things, 
but I am as one abandoned. 

How fooUsh and simple am I ! I am be- 

Everyone sparkles with intelligence, I am 
alone in my obscurity. 

The people are full of discernment ; I alone 
am dull. 

I am tossed about like the ocean ; I roll and 
am never at rest. 

Everyone has something to do ; I alone am 
incapable and without merit. 

I alone am estranged from the people, but 
I glory on the breast of my mother I 

After satirising the so-called wisdom of the Schools, which 
mainly consists in discriminating between "this" and "that" 
(or, as they have it in the Chinese, " ready assent " and 
"reluctant assent," the affirmative wet and the tentative o), 
always regarding differences as of more importance than 
similarities, and for ever discussing the branches instead of 
going to the root, our author pretends to lament his own 
incapacity and obscurity in order that he may say this one 
thing of himself which is true — " I glory on the breast of my 


mother.'' He compares himself to a little child, abandoned 
and rejected by mankind, but dear to his mother — Nature. It 
is a full indictment of the world, and loses nothing of its force 
by reason of its simplicity ; for how can we reject the child of 
Nature without spurning Nature herself, on whose pure breast 
he lies in his glory? All this worldly wisdom of ours, this 
distinction of good and evil, this ambition, egoism, dogmatism, 
this patriotism, this spacing out of our lives into codes of ethic 
and polity, this ticketing and labelling of things and persons 
which characterises the world to-day, all this is laughed at and 
scorned by Laotze as something paltry, ridiculous, and un- 
natural. Yet while rejecting Nature in the highest sense, we 
swarm over her like parasites in all that appertains to the 
merely earthly. We are for ever probing her for new and ever 
new resources, prodding her for more and more sustenance, 
nosing and pushing and squealing like a litter of young pigs, 
and sucking at her like vampires. We know a great deal 
about her operations and resources, all that concerns the mere 
externals of her existence, but of Nature herself — her integrity, 
her virtue, her unselfishness, her close union with God — we are 
altogether ignorant, or what (but for our ignorance) would be 
worse, indifferent. 



The greatest virtue is in simply following 
Tao, the intangible, inscrutable. 

Inscrutable, intangible, and yet containing 


Intangible, inscrutable, and yet containing 

Profound and obscure, but having an Es- 
sence, a veritable essence in w^hich is consist- 

From eternity until now its nature has re- 
mained unchanged. 

It inheres in all things from their beginnings. 

How do I know of the origin of things ? 

I know by Tao. 

The properties of the Tao are here recited, and it is referred 
to as a veritable, consistent, and unchangeable essence, which 
is the root and origin of all things whatsoever. Elsewhere the 
Tao appears from the context to mean the doctri?te concerning 
the nature of this essence, as in the phrase, " When the Great 
Tao is lost," etc. In this chapter we learn for the first time 
that Laotze is not speaking from traditional knowledge of the 
Tao, but from personal cognition of the doctrine, by means of 
which he can discern the origin and nature of things. " I know 
by (means of) Tao," he says. If the knowledge of Tao is 
consequent upon reverting to one's original simplicity and 
abandoning all that the world holds in esteem, Laotze may be 
said to have attained it. We see the Old Philosopher, close 
upon ninety years of age, leaving behind him the patronage of 
an Emperor, the favours of princes, and the esteem of the 
greatest minds of his age, toiling up the mountain-side to the 
Kwan Yin Pass, where he writes a small book on the nature of 
the True Path, which he commits to the care of a military out- 


post. There were not so many pages as the writer had years, 
but such as it was, he left it to the world, and the world has 
held it for twenty-four centuries, seeming to know all along 
that it had something good to take care of and to pass on to 
posterity. And this that we have before us is that book : pro- 
found, yet most simple ; perplexing, yet self-evident. As he 
elsewhere defines the anomalies and paradoxes of nature, so 
many will regard his book — " the open door of bewilderment." 
It is worthy of observation that both Laotze and Krishna com- 
mitted very similar doctrines each to the care of a soldier. 
Having propounded the doctrine of Simplicity, Laotze "went 
Home"; and if we may judge the man from his book, he had 
not far to travel. 



Whosoever adapteth himself shall be pre- 
served to the end. 

Whosoever bendeth himself shaU be straight- 

Whosoever emptieth himself shall be filled. 

Whosoever weareth himself away shall be 

Whosoever humbleth himself shall be ex- 

Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased. 


Therefore doth the Sage cling to simplicity, 
and is an example to aU men. 

He is not ostentatious, and therefore he 

He is not egotistic, and therefore he is praised. 
He is not vain, and therefore he is esteemed. 

He is not haughty, and therefore he is 

And because he does not compete with 
others, no man is his enemy. 

The ancient maxim, "Whosoever adapteth 
himself shall be preserved to the end," verily 
it is no idle saying. 

Without doubt he shall go back to his 
Home in peace. 

The phrasing of this chapter is so like the text of the Chris- 
tian scripture as to be remarkable in that respect alone. Thus 
we have in the teaching of the holy Nazarene this phrase, 
"Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that 
humbleth himself shall be exalted," spoken by the Christ when 
exhorting His disciples to observe humility. Five centuries 
before this, Laotze in China and Siddharta Gautama in India 
were teaching the same doctrine in the same words. The 
Spirit of Truth, speaking through the ages, has in different 
climes spoken in various tongues, finding voice here in the 
Hebrew, there in the HindU; now in the Arab, and again in 


the Chinaman ; and in all we see " diversity of gifts, but the 
same spirit." There is every reason to think that, from a 
merely physical point of view, the adaptability of Nature is the 
cause of its endurance. The idea is, perhaps, contained in the 
scientific postulate of the Correlation of Forces. Nature effects 
her operations with the least possible output of energy ; it 
seeks the line of least resistance, as we see from the flowing 
of the rivers, the zigzag of the lightning flash, and the ellipsis 
of a planetary orbit ; it converts its forces by modulation from 
one character to another ; it uses up all its waste material ; it 
is never in a hurry. This is the Conservation of Energy which 
science demonstrates. Yet while most economical, it is most 
lavish ; although gentle, it is terrific ; and although it is irresist- 
ible, it adapts itself to every occasion. Because of this infinite 
capacity to adapt itself, it endures for ever. 



Moderate your speech, and preserve yourself. 

A hurricane will not outlast the morning, 
a heavy rain will not outlast the day. 

Who have the power to make these things 
but Heaven and Earth ? 

And if Heaven and Earth cannot continue 
them long, how shall a man do so ? 

If a man accords with Tao in all things, he 
is identified with Tao by that agreement. 


A virtuous man is identified with virtue, a 
vicious man is identified with vice. 

Whoever is identified with Tao, him do the 
Taoists receive with gladness. 

Whoever is identified with virtue, him do 
the virtuous receive with gladness. 

But whoever is identified with vice, him do 
the vicious gladly serve vdth vice. 

For wherever confidence is lacking, it is not 
met with trust. 

Moderation of desire and ambition is an essential to happi- 
ness, as Laotze has already shown ; but perfection is not reached 
without gentleness and corresponding moderation of both feeling 
and action and speech. "Let your yea be yea, and your nay 
nay," said the Master, "for whatsoever is more than this cometh 
of evil." Laotze considers immoderate speech as so much waste 
of energy. If we are to follow Tao, we must accord with it in 
all things — in speech as well as in thought, in feeling as well as 
in action. " Heaven and Earth," he says, " are not excessive, 
though having the power to produce hurricanes and torrential 
rains, so why should a man waste his energies in immoderate 
language?" We may conclude from this that suavity and 
gentleness and courtesy are qualities to be looked for in the 




By standing on tiptoe one cannot keep still. 

Astride of one's fellow one cannot progress. 

By displaying oneself one does not shine. 

By self-approbation one is not esteemed. 

In self-praise there is no merit. 

He who exalts himself does not stand high. 

Such things are to Tao what refuse and ex- 
creta are to the body. 

They are everywhere detested. 

Therefore the man of Tao will not abide 
with them. 

The Sage has a supreme disregard for non-essentials. Worldly 
power, fame, advancement, titles, vanity, self-esteem, and depend- 
ence on the strength or merits of others are condemned by him as 
undesirable honours, not essential to true happiness and welfare. 
He perceives that they are related to the externals of life, and 
are, in fact, the products of a corrupt civilisation, and therefore 
to be shunned as ofifal or excrement. The difference between 
deserving and desiring the esteem of the world is of import- 
ance. The man of virtue will so act as to deserve merit, but 
this he will do because the whole virtue of life consists in use, 
and not because of any desire for merit. He cares only to 


fulfil his natural part in life, and to live without strife. If he 
gains merit, he will know how to wear it with modesty, but it 
will not in any way affect his course of action, nor cause him 
to set a greater value on anything that he does. The man who 
is desirous of merit acts only within the lines which lead that 
way, and there is nothing spontaneous or altogether virtuous in 
what he does. He is from the first attached to the fruits of 
action, and therefore if he fails to gain merit by his work, he is 
so much the more despondent and disappointed, and comes 
even to the point of regretting whatever good he may incident- 
ally have performed. 



Before Heaven and Earth existed there was 
in Nature a primordial substance. 

It was serene, it was fathomless. 

It was self-existent, it was homogeneous. 

It was omnipresent, nor suffered any Umita- 

It is to be regarded as the universal mother. 
I do not know its name, but I call it Tao. 

If forced to qualify it, I call it the bound- 

Being boundless, I call it the inconceivable. 


Being inscrutable, I call it the inaccessible. 

Being inaccessible, I call it the omnipresent. 

Tao is supreme, Heaven is supreme. Earth 
is supreme, the King is supreme. 

There are in the universe four kinds of 
supremacy, and their rulership is one. 

Man is ruled by the Earth, the Earth is 
ruled by Heaven, Heaven is ruled by Tao, 
and Tao is ruled by itself. 

From the point of view of the physicist this statement of the 
nature of the primordial essence, or First Matter, in the uni- 
verse will, I think, come in the nature of a surprise. This con- 
cept of the Plenum has been referred to every philosopher in 
turn— to Newton, Kepler, Bruno, Ptolemy, and to Plato. It 
has been current' in Europe ever since the days of the Neo- 
Platonists. In India it was of even more remote origin as a 
philosophic concept. Here we find it in China, where it 
appears to have been as well conceived of by Laotze as ever 
it was in the Western schools of thought. He says it was 
before Heaven and Earth. It therefore corresponds to Ath- 
Ain-Suph of the Hebrew cosmogenesis. Thus we have in the 
first of Genesis, ath-hashemayim ve-ath-hearetz, i.e. the original 
substance of the disposers (Heavens) and the original substance 
of the Earth. Laotze says it was without limitation and bound- 
less. This is in agreement with the Hebrew expressions tohu 
and bohu, the formless and boundless substance out of which 
the cosmos was formed. Exactly the same idea is to be found 
in the Hindu philosophy, wherein the universe is conceived to 
be formed by differentiation from Mulaprakriti, the Root- 


substance or Mother-substance of the infinite. Figuratively 
the universe is referred to as an egg {Brahmandam) floating 
in the ocean of space, while fluttering over it is seen the Kala- 
hamsa, or Bird of Time. The universe is frequently referred 
to as the Auranyagarbha, or Golden Egg. It is a matter of 
great interest to know that these deep problems were thought 
out in very ancient times, and that the conclusions of the old 
Sages were in no way discreditable to them from the point of 
view of pure philosophy, while it is undoubtedly the fact that 
they approached these subjects in a far more reverential spirit 
than do the thinkers of the West to-day. Their inspirations 
are only to be found in the sacred writings, by which circum- 
stance they are saved all undue controversy, and, as Laotze 
elsewhere says, " The Tao which is the subject of discussion 
is not the true Tao (doctrine)." 

Of the undulatory theory of light we have abundant evidence 
in both Sanskrit and Hebrew writings, and on many other points 
of the deepest significance it may be safely said that there is no 
conflict between revealed religion and true science. 



Weight underlies lightness, quiescence under- 
lies motion. 

Therefore the Sage never loses his gravity 
and quiescence from day to day. 

Though glorious palaces should belong to 
him, he would dwell in them peacefully, with- 
out attachment. 


Alas that a king with many chariots should 
conduct himself with frivolity in the midst of 
his kingdom I 

By levity he loses his ministers, and by in- 
constancy his throne. 

Laotze uses the Alternation theorem to its fullest extent. 
That weight underlies lightness is evident from the fact that 
we cannot speak of that which is light without supposing 
something that is heavy in comparison with it. Moreover, 
from general considerations of the nature of bodies and their 
gravities and positions, we are apt to think of that which is 
heaviest as being also the lowest, and that which is lightest as 
being also the highest ; and if left to themselves, things would 
be thus naturally arranged. Therefore, in common parlance, 
the earth is low and the heavens are high ; also that which is 
heaviest is most stable, while that which is lightest is most 
fugitive. So the Sage cultivates stability of character, that 
those who depend on him may rest in security. 

That motion underlies quiescence is evident from the fact 
that we cannot think of motion apart from that which is 
moved ; and to think of it as moving, we must first suppose 
a position in which it is at rest, and from which it is dis- 
sociated by the act of moving. Also, from what we reason 
concerning the heavy and the light, there is an evident associa- 
tion of the heavy with the quiescent, and of the light with the 
fugitive. The Sage therefore cultivates gravity and restfulness 
while remaining joyous and active. This he does by the power 
of adaptation. Therefore all men respect him. 




The good walker makes no dust after him. 

The good speaker incurs no discussion. 

The good reckoner needs no arithmetic. 

The good keeper needs no bolts or bars, 
and none can open after him. 

The good binder needs no rope, and none 
can loose after him. 

The wise man is a constant and good helper 
of his fellows. He rejects none. 

He is a continual good preserver of things. 
He disdains nothing. 

His intelligence is all-embracing. 

Good men instruct one another ; and bad 
men are the materials they delve in. 

Whoever, therefore, does not honour his 
teacher and cherish his material, though he be 
called wise, is yet in a state of delusion. 

This is no less important than strange. 


The common incidents of everyday life are full of significance 
for the observant and thoughtful person. When the eyes and 
mouth are choked with the dust of other men's feet, the neat 
walker commands our esteem, and it is a pleasure to follow 
him. That is why it is more pleasant to follow the philosopher 
than the gun-carriage, and easier to walk after Nature than 
after a marching army. The good speaker incurs no dis- 
cussion, because in the statement of his views he always leaves 
room for the opinions of others. The good reckoner needs no 
arithmetic, because he knows that the most abstruse calculation 
is after all only a matter of addition and subtraction, and that 
while there is only One, and that One is All, adding or taking 
away this or that is only a change in the order of things, not in 
their sum total. Therefore the Sage is concerned more with 
the sum total of things than with the items. The good keeper 
needs no bolts or bars, because he keeps nothing that he can- 
not give away, and his greatest treasure caA neither be seen 
nor handled. He is the guardian of the Doctrine (Tao), and 
the key is within his own breast, so that none can open after 
him. Therefore the Sage lays up for himself "treasure in 
heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where 
thieves cannot break through and steal." The Sage helps his 
fellows and preserves all things, because he uses them with 

Wisdom begets wisdom and folly instructs it. Therefore the 
Sage learns how to use even the apparently useless. We must, 
therefore, honour the Sage and cherish his material, bearing 
ourselves in compassion with all persons and things whatso- 




He who, being a man, remains a woman, will 
become an universal channel. 

As an universal channel the eternal virtue 
will never forsake him. He will re-become a 

He who, being in the light, remains in ob- 
scurity, wiU become an universal model. 

As an universal model the eternal virtue 
will not pass him by. He will go back to the 

He who, being glorious, continues in humil- 
ity, will become an universal valley. 

As an universal valley the eternal virtue 
will fill him. He will revert to the first essence. 

This first essence is that which, being differ- 
entiated, gives rise to innumerable vessels of 

A wise man, by embracing it, becomes the 
wisest of governors. 

A liberal government is that which neither 
disregards nor hurts anyone. 


Laotze here shows that the Sage completes his nature and 
becomes symmetrical by developing simultaneously as man, 
woman, and child. He educates the strength of a man, the 
tenderness of a woman, and the simplicity of a child. Being 
filled with the Eternal Virtue, he shines with it. He does not 
shine against the Sun, but in obscurity, where shining is useful. 
He is glorious, not in the presence of kings, but among the 
people, who have need of his light. Having no will apart from 
Heaven, he governs all things, not with indifference, and not 
with tyranny, but as Heaven itself rules men — by love. 



When a man who wishes to reform the world 
takes it in hand, I perceive that there will be 
no end to it I 

Spiritual vessels are not fashioned in the 

Whoever makes destroys ; whoever grasps 

For perforce if one advances another is left 
behind ; if one blows hot another will blow 
cold ; if one be strengthened another will be 
weakened ; if one be supported another wiU 
be undermined. 


Therefore the Sage gives up all enthusiasm, 
levity, and pomp. 

The reformer of the world is a plague and a pestilence, 
destroying things as they are and not staying to build up where 
he has destroyed. Let every man begin with his own conduct, 
and reform that ; and when everyone succeeds, the world will 
need no further reformation. But if one cannot reform himself 
how shall he reform the world? There is something of mad- 
ness in everyone, if not in the germ at least in tendency ; but 
there is more than the usual predisposition to madness in the 
reformer. He sweeps into the horizon of our peaceful lives 
like a blazing comet, " brandishing his flaming tresses in the 
sky," and in his wake there are hordes of cadaverous ghouls 
and croaking vultures. Simeon and Levi — the political and 
religious reformers — "are a twin. Instruments of cruelty are 
in their habitations. Enter not into their counsel, O my Soul ! 
Be thou not joined to their assembly. For in their vehemence 
they slew a man, and in their rashness they digged down a wall." 

That "whoever makes destroys" is evident from the fact 
that there can be only one Maker of all things, and all human 
interference is only a process of pulling down in one place to 
set up in another. There is nothing gained in the process. 
So in the building up of Empires and Principalities. One may 
establish an Empire and destroy the unity of the Race, or build 
a Principality and destroy the integrity of the nation. That 
"he who grasps loses" is a corollary of the statement that 
"he who claims nothing as his own cannot at any time be 
said to lose." For if a man grasps an empire it is certain that 
sooner or later he will lose it. In view of our limitations and 
mortality it is better that we should regard God and Nature 
as already in possession and look to our stewardship. When 
this is done a temperate government is sure to follow, and the 
people will be cemented in goodwill to their rulers and to 
one another. 




The man who aids the King by the use of 
Tao forces the people into submission without 
resort to the use of arms. He will not regard 
the fruit of his actions. 

Prickly briars and thorns flourish where 
battahons have quartered. 

Bad years foUow on the heels of armies 
in motion. 

The good soldier is brave when occasion 
requires, but he does not risk himself for 

Brave is he when occasion requires, but he 
does not oppress. 

Brave is he when occasion requires, but he 
does not boast. 

Brave is he when occasion requires, but he 
is not haughty. 

Brave is he when occasion requires, but he 
is not mean. 


Brave is he when occasion requires, but he 
does not rage. 

Things become old through excess of vigour. 
This is called Non-Tao ; and what is Non-Tao 
is soon wasted I 

There is no harm in forcing the people when violence is not 
used. By means of the Original Simplicity of Nature the 
people may be constrained through their own dispositions, and 
there is no violence done to any. It is always as easy to pull 
as to push. The great thing is to get along without undue 

No doubt this chapter was written for the special edification 
of the Guard of the Kwan-yin Pass, himself a soldier and a 
follower of the Tao. Perchance he had pondered on the 
seeming incongruity of his calling and the doctrine of life 
which he had espoused. Laotze reassures him. The situa- 
tion is exactly similar to that of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gitk 
Therein we read that Krishna instructed the soldier upon the 
dharma (duty) of his station, showing that, whatever the call- 
ing, its merit lies in the faithful discharge of its obligations, 
" without regard to the fruit of action." The dharma of the 
warrior Arjuna and the teh (virtue) of the solitary picket of 
the Kwan-yin Pass are the same. Dharma is the special 
aptitude of all things born into the external world ; and hence 
it comes to mean "calling, duty," and eventually "merit." 
Laotze intends the same meaning in the use of the word teh. 
The merit of everything is in its use. Its use depends upon 
its nature. Therefore all merit and virtue are in the uses of 
things. Individual power is the measure of one's responsi- 
bility, and ability is the limit of obligation ; and it is a logical 
maxim that "virtue consists in being oneself," as our philo- 
sopher teaches. 


After stating that war brings trouble and misfortune to the 
people, it is stated that the responsibility of such disasters does 
not rest upon the good soldier, who, although he be "brave 
when occasion requires," is clear of responsibility in the com- 
pletion of his duty, so he be not oppressive, nor boastful, nor 
haughty, nor mean, nor wrathful, for by these qualities he 
identifies himself with the fruits of his actions, and incurs 



Weapons, however ornamental, are not a 
source of happiness, but are dreaded by all. 

Therefore the man of Tao will not abide 
where such things are. 

A respectable man at home sets the place 
of honour at his left hand ; but the warrior 
on going forth to battle gives honour to the 
right hand. For weapons are things of ill 
omen, and the man of enhghtenment does not 
use them except when he cannot help it. 

His great desire is peace, and he does not 
take joy in conquest. 

To joy in conquest is to joy in the loss of 
human hfe. 


He who joys in bloodshed is not fit to govern 
the country. 

When aflfairs are prosperous the left side is 
preferred, but when things are adverse the 
right is esteemed. 

The adjutant-general is therefore on the 
left side, while the general-in-chief is on the 

This I perceive is the manner also observed 
at a funeral ! 

He who has occasion to kill many people 
has cause for deep sorrow and tears. 

Therefore a victorious army observes the 
order of a funeral. 

The contrast between the Mongolian customs and those of 
the West has often been a subject of comment. Almost every 
action of a Chinaman is gauche from a Western point of view. 
In China the left hand is the fortunate one, and the right is the 
"sinister." This will make the saying of Laotze intelligible! 
for in times of peace, when the adjutant-general takes the 
command, the place of honour is on the left of the column 
or battalion, while in times of war, when the general-in-chief 
takes command, the place of honour is on the right. 

The philosopher continues his teaching upon the uses of 
war, showing that there is no cause for exultation in victory, 
if such victory entails the shedding of human blood. Rather 


is it a cause for sorrow, and the ancients recognised this when 
they disposed the victorious army after the manner of a funeral. 
• The recognition and use of the doctrine of Original Sim- 
plicity would make an end of war, and as to punitive ex- 
peditions, they too would cease. "Why should I take upon 
myself to punish the evildoer .? " says the philosopher ; " there 
is always the Great Executioner ! " Let every man first be sure 
of his just rights, and then guard them ; let him govern that 
which is his own and leave others to govern theirs. If a man 
shall sincerely take himself in hand, he will have little time to 
make war upon others ; and with slender cause to find fault 
with them, he will not presume to correct them. This is what 
the Chinese philosopher calls "taking control." It is elsewhere 
referred to as " the little occupation," or " the small handful." 
But it is enough for one man, and will last him a lifetime. 



Tao the absolute has no name. 

But although insignificant in its original 
simplicity, the world does not presume to be- 
mean it. 

If a king could lay hold on it, the world 
would of itself submit to him. 

Heaven and Earth would conspire to nourish" 


The people without pressure would peace- 
fully fall into their own places. 

If he should dispose them by titles and 
names, he would be making a name for him- 

Yet he would wisely stop short of the name, 
and thus avoid the evil of distinctions. 

Tao is to the world what the streams and 
valleys are to the great rivers and seas. 

The virtue of all things lies in their natural qualities and 
uses, and not in the names that we give to them ; and the 
scent of a rose is sweet, let us call it what we will. If haply 
we name things by their inherent quaUties, we do to that ex- 
tent observe harmony and display intelligence. Kings are dis- 
tinguished by the virtue of their ruling ; but those who are 
servile in character are by that reason unkingly, being domin- 
ated by their passions, by their courtiers, and by their people, 
who rise up against them. When a king rules by virtue " the 
people fall into their natural places." 

If a man has a taste for titles, let him have many. It costs 
no more than a breath, and does not impoverish the country ; 
and should he prove himself worthy of only one of them, 
everyone should be well satisfied. Yet Tao, to whom all offices 
are natural, and who fulfils everyone of them, remains without 
a name ! Here the philosopher evidently intends the Supreme 
Being in essence and in manifestation, the Absolute, the In- 

The Tao is compared to " streams and valleys," because it 
feeds and sustains the great waters, i.e. the people. 




He is wise who knows others. 

He who knows himself is enlightened. 

He is strong who conquers others. 

He who conquers himself is mighty. 

He is rich who is well satisfied. 

He walks fast who has an object. 

He who fills his place remains secure. 

He who dies without being corrupted en- 
joys a good old age. 

The Old Philosopher, while allowing that the proper study 
for mankind is man, teaches a more excellent thing, namely, 
that a man should know himself, and be his own master ; for 
as we are more immediately concerned with our own work in 
the world than with that of others, so a knowledge of our in- 
dividual selves is of greater use to us than a knowledge of 
others. It is, moreover, of more consequence to others that 
we should know ourselves than that we should seek to know 
them, for by self-knowledge alone are we enabled to rightly 
dispose ourselves in regard to others ; and then, if the know- 
ledge of self should prove a difficult task, how next to im- 
possible would be the task of knowing many others ! Self- 
conquest, too, is preferable to the conquest of others ; and if 


every man began the work of reformation in himself, and 
brought his ambitions to an end there, the whole world would 
be simultaneously subdued and regulated. 

-*' " He is rich who is well satisfied," says the Sage. " He is 
well paid who is well satisfied," says Shakspere. The root- 
cause of poverty is therefore discontent ; and if a man should 
desire more than his share, another must accordingly suffer 
privation. If a man's stomach is dissatisfied, it is likely that 
his brain or some other part of him will go on short commons. 
But a more conspicuous cause of poverty is waste, and Laotze 
concludes by saying that "what is not Tao is soon wasted." 
In full accord with this statement is the exhortation that we 
should " lay up for ourselves treasure in Heaven," and this is 
the only secure means of providing against eventual poverty. 
It is the Soul-thrift of the permanent man. To progress 
rapidly one must have a purpose in life ; and to be secure, one 
must so work as to defy competition. If a man fills his place 
in the spiritual and social economy, there can be no room there 
for others, and no danger of displacement will beset him, for 
there would be no rivalry. It is only when we strive to fill the 
places of others that overcrowding begins. Those who are 
troubled about the congestion of our great cities should regard 
the vacant spaces in the country. For the privilege of buying 
sixty-two per cent, of our comestibles abroad we produce 
enough smoke to fill an Inferno. If we must die, let us do so 
naturally, and not slowly asphyxiate ourselves. 

The cause of death is corruption. If a man be corrupt, he 
is dead already, and in need of a resurrection. What we call 
putrefaction is only the evidence of an external death. The 
man of Tao does not die. He sleeps. Death kisses him, and 
makes him immortal on the instant. 




Mighty Tao is all-pervading. 

It is simultaneously on this side and on that. 

AU living things subsist from it, and aU are 
in its care. 

It works, it finishes, and knows not the 
name of merit. 

In love it nurtures aU things, and claims 
no excellence therein. 

It knows neither ambition nor desire. 

It can be classed with the humblest of 

All things finally revert to it, and it is not 
thereby increased. 

It can be mentioned with the greatest of 

Thus does the wise man continually refrain 
from self-distinction. 

Laotze shows us how, by imitating Tao, we may attain to 
real greatness. Those works which are begun and finished by 


us without regard to merit or the fruits of labour have in them 
the virtue of Tao, and may truly be called great, however 
lightly the world may esteem them. It is a fact, no less 
regrettable than obvious, that almost all the good work that 
is done in the world is the result of constraint. The fear of 
punishment or the hope of reward are the two walls of con- 
straint which hedge the course of the great majority and 
compel them to do something good for the community. Fear 
of punishment restrains them from actual evils, and the hope 
of reward stimulates them to the performance of something 
which is, at all events, apparently good. But that which has 
the germ of Self in it is like pleasant-looking fruit that is 
rotten at the core. Every act is a child of life, and the motive 
is its soul. Self, separateness, discord, and destruction : these 
belong to the category of things evil. Unselfishness, unity, 
harmony, and preservation : these are things that are good. 
To do good for its own sake, out of goodness, is better than 
doing good for one's own sake out of expediency. The hope of 
Heaven and the fear of Hell have never yet produced a Saint, 
but both have helped to render the world full of hypocrisy 
and distrust. 



Attain to the Great Idea, and aU the world 
will flock to you. 

It will flock to you and will not be hurt 
therein, for it will rest in a wonderful peace. 

Where there is a festival the wayfarer wiU 


To the palate the Tao is insipid and tasteless. 
In regarding it the eye is not impressed. 
In listening to it the ear is not filled. 
But in its uses it is inexhaustible. 

The Great Idea is the Virtue of Tao, or Originality, Simplicity. 
To attain to this virtue is to cherish without distinction, to think 
without doubting, to speak without duplicity, and to act without 

The natural abandon and unconstrainedness of a festival, 
where all are carried away by music and dancing into a spon- 
taneous expression of their better natures, is here used by the 
philosopher to illustrate the attractiveness of the Tao. Yet he 
would warn us that the senses are not gratified by the virtue of 
Tao. Having already shown that the virtue of a thing is in its 
use — not in its form, however beautiful, and not in its material, 
however rare — he adds that in regard to mere usefulness the 
Tao is inexhaustible. 



When Nature is about to withhold a thing it 
is first sure to increase it. 

When about to weaken it is first sure to 

When about to debase it is certain first to 


When about to deprive it is first sure to give. 

This is what I call the covert agreement. 

The soft and the weak overcome the hard 
and the strong. 

As a fish out of water is in danger, so a 
nation is in peril when its armaments are 
revealed to the people. 

The law of Compensation, everywhere observable in Nature, 
has never failed to engage the minds of great thinkers, and it is 
conspicuously mentioned by Laotze. The correlated successive- 
ness of natural phenomena involves continual change in the 
relations of things, and it is only through change of state that 
the law of Compensation is free to work. That before a thing 
can begin to decrease it must first reach its fulness is a self- 
evident fact. If we are not content with this arrangement 
we are beyond the help of Nature. If it be asked why some 
enjoy a longer fulness than others, I would say that they are 
more ponderable bodies and move in larger orbits. This, also, 
is a matter of compensation, if we could but perceive it. They 
have had their long winter of privation. It is right that they 
should enjoy a long perihelion splendour. The point of attrac- 
tion, the focus around which they revolve, may be centred in 
some hell of human passion, but that is their sun, and they 
shine by its lurid light. Others have their focus in higher 
atmospheres and regions far removed from Earth. And 
Heaven takes count of the whole circle of events and persons 
and things, not any separate phase of the world, nor any part 
of its orbit. 

That "the soft and the weak overcome the hard and the 
strong " is evident from the facts of Nature. Water is yielding 


and soft, but it wears away the rocks. Love is gentle and yield- 
ing, but it overcomes Self, which is a very hard thing. 

By this "covert agreement" between Nature and Man we 
are assured that we have only to empty ourselves of things 
appertaining to self in order to be filled with love for others. 
" Blessed are the empty, for they shall be filled," says the Sage. 
It is better to reserve one's strength than to make undue display 
of it ; for those who glory in their strength are apt to make 
occasion for testing it. The forces of Nature are great, but 
they become exhausted. Why, then, should man make haste 
to confess his inferior powers ? 



Tao remains quiescent^ and yet leaves nothing 

If a ruler or a king could hold it, all things 
would of their own accord assume the desired 

If in the process of transformation desire 
should arise, I would check it by the ineffable 

The ineffable simplicity would bring about 
an absence of desire, and rest would come 
back again. 

Thus the world would regenerate itself. 


"The Heart of Being is celestial rest," says the Buddha, 
and Laotze says, "What is celestial is by nature Tao"; and in 
the twenty-first chapter of this book he says of Tao, "From 
eternity till now its nature has remained unchanged ! " There- 
fore in effecting things while remaining quiescent, Tao acts by 
non-action. By this paradox, "acting by non-action," we are 
to understand the doing of a thing without regard to its results, 
from a sense of non-attachment to the fruits of action, i.e. acting 
without design, spontaneously, as by nature. Thus water 
flows without desiring it, and without regard to the result of its 
flowing. Laotze says, "As the wind bloweth whithersoever it 
listeth, so let virtue establish itself." The Christ spoke to the 
same effect when He said, "The wind bloweth whithersoever 
it listeth, and no man knoweth the way thereof. It is even so 
with the Spirit." Therefore it appears that non-action consists 
in " working without design," by the natural expression of one's 
own qualities and talents when freed from all selfish motives. 



The superior virtue is not recognised as such, 
and it is therefore the very essence of virtue. 

The inferior virtue has the distinction of 
virtue, and therefore it lacks the essence. 

The superior virtue is spontaneous, and 
makes no claim to merit. 

The inferior virtue is designing, and lays 
claim to recognition. 


The higher benevolence acts without pre- 
tension to merit. 

The inferior justice acts, and also makes 

The inferior expediency is designing, and 
therefore no one honours it. 

Therefore does it bare its arm and assert 
itself by force. 

Thus it transpires that when virtue is lost, 
benevolence takes its place. 

When benevolence is lost, justice ensues. 

When justice is lost, then expediency follows. 

But expediency is the mere shadow of what 
is right and true, and is portentous of con- 

Superficial virtue is the mere tinsel of Tao, 
and the fool makes use of it. 

But the truly great man establishes himself 
on that which is sohd, and wiU not lean upon 
a shadow. 

He keeps to the real, and avoids display. 

He rejects the one, and takes the other 
with both hands. 


The philosopher here teaches that whatever is recognised as 
virtuous is not essentially so. This dictum is at first difficult 
to accept ; but when one comes to think of it seriously and 
deeply, it glimmers in our consciousness as a point of intelli- 
gence, and then blazes forth as a magnificent truth ! For if 
we speak of a man as godly or kingly, we tacitly infer that 
there is a distinction between God and the man who is like 
unto a god, between the king and he who is like the king. 
And because a semblance is not an identity, we thereby affirm 
only a similarity to the real thing, a mere vestige of the true. 
So that which we call virtuous is by that distinction separate 
from virtue itself. We speak of benevolence as humane, there- 
by recognising it as accidental to-humanity, and not an essential 
virtue. We say of a monkey, " How very human it is ! " mean- 
ing that although not a human, it is very like one. 

This, then, is what Laotze means when he says, "The in 
ferior virtue has the distinction of virtue, and therefore it lacks 
the essence," a statement which is something more than a mere 
sophistry. In this chapter the Old Philosopher shows the 
gradual decadence of virtue, bringing it down from the essen- 
tial virtue of Tao to the modern shadow of virtue which is 
named " Expediency." This he rightly says is never mistaken 
for virtue by the wise, and it is not honoured as such. " There- 
fore it bares its arms and asserts itself by force." The modern 
expedient of "enforcing the law" is a fair example of the 
Shadow of Virtue. But men have grown to be so timid in 
themselves, so frightened of one another, that they are easily 
frighted by shadows. When a man is not himself genuine, 
shadows become to him what real things are to the wise and 




Certain things have, by unity, lasted from 
most ancient times, namely : — 

The transparency of Heaven ; 

The steadfastness of Earth ; 

The incorporeality of spirits ; 

The watery plenitude of valleys ; 

The life of all creations ; 

The government of kings and princes ; 

All these endure by unity. 

But for the cause of its transparency Heaven 
would be in danger of obscuration. 

But for the cause of its steadfastness the 
Earth would be in danger of disintegration. 

But for the cause of their incorporeality 
spirits would be in danger of decease. 

But for the cause of their plenitude the 
valleys would be in danger of sterility. 

But for the cause of their vitality all 
creations would be in danger of destruction. 


But for the cause of their honour and great- 
ness princes and kings would be in danger of 
an overthrow. 

Herein we see how honour is derived from 
that which is without distinction ; and how 
greatness rests upon, and is sustaiaed by, that 
which is insignificant. 

Hence do princes and kings call themselves 
"orphans," "sohtary men," and "chariots 
without wheels." 

Do they not thereby acknowledge their 
authority to be vested in, and supported by, 
their superiors ? 

Who can deny it ? 

Surely " a chariot without wheels " is no 
chariot at all 1 

It is as hard for a man to be isolated like a 
single gem ais to be lost in the crowd like 
a common pebble. 

"^ Having shown that Tao, the source of all virtue, is un- 
recognised and without distinction, Laotze now indicates how 
the virtue of all things is sustained by their unity, which is 
the essential attribute of Tao. Things endure by reason of 
their unity, or rather by reason of their unitedness. That 


which is harmonious and which blends in unison has in it 
the elements of endurance. But that which is separate and 
in discord is doomed to destruction by that very disagreement 
of its elements. 

" A house divided against itself cannot stand." 

The philosopher further shows that things derive their virtue 
from that which supports and sustains them. Thus a king is 
king by reason of his being the chief subject. While the 
people are in accord with him and with one another, he governs. 
For if the people are divided among themselves he cannot be 
said to govern them, and if the people do not acknowledge the 
king, it is only because he does not govern himself. If a man 
cannot govern himself he certainly can never govern others. 
As the head rests upon the body and governs it, being at the 
same time nourished and sustained by the body, so the king 
rests upon the people. 

All things are sustained and nourished by Tao, the unrecog- 
nised and inconspicuous, and therefore whatsoever is dis- 
tinguished from Tao is by that circumstance rendered liable 
to destruction on account of non-unity. Wherefore a king 
should not be separate from his people, but should regard 
himself as the chief subject. If he can govern that, he will 
have no trouble with the rest. 

The teaching of the Gitk on this subject is curiously similar 
to the teaching of our author, and the same simile is employed, 
the nation being compared to a chariot, the integrity of which 
does not rest in any one part of its constitution, but in all 
its parts working together. What holds them together are 
the insignificant pieces which generally escape notice. That 
which holds the universe together is the virtue of unity in Tao. 




The path of Tao is backward. 

The characteristic of Tao is gentleness. 

Everything in the universe conies from 
existence, and existence from non-existence. 

This, the shortest chapter of all written by the Philosopher, 
is well named by the commentators. Two of the three stanzas 
have been reiterated time after time in the course of this work. 
" The course of Tao is retrograde." This is a perplexing and 
seemingly paradoxical statement. 

We have already seen that "all things die down to their 
root." But Tao has no root, and therefore it cannot be said 
of Tao that it dies down, for it is in itself the root of every- 
thing, and all .things finally go back to it. 

In what way, then, is the Path of Tao "retrograde"? In 
this wise : Tao itself, being boundless and immovable, cannot 
at any time be said to progress or retrogress. The Absolute 
has no procedure. When we speak of the Path or Way of 
Tao, we mean that course of human life and thought which 
leads to Tao. This path, from the point of view of embodied 
humanity, is retrograde. It is opposed to the course of human 
polity, it is contrary to the trend of civilisation. He who takes to 
this Path of Tao must go back whence he came ; he must revert 
to his original simplicity and re-become a little child. All the 
great world teachers have cried out upon the corruptions of so- 
called civilisation. They have shown the incompatibility of 
the Path of Virtue and the " way of the world," and they have 


laid down in no uncertain words the only means of attaining 
the Simple Life. 

To quote only so much as may be received upon the authority 
of Scripture, " Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted 
and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom 
of heaven." The simplicity, candour, disinterestedness, and 
faith of childhood are incompatible with the polity of nations ; 
and there is no condition in the civilised world to-day wherein 
the precepts of the Nazarene could be attempted with any 
measure of success. The Path of Tao leads backward against 
the order of what is known as social progress. It leads in 
the direction of simplicity of life, not towards complexity and 
elaboration. The standards of respectability, of social import- 
ance, of commercial stability and professional status, are as 
false as they are difficult to attain, or when reached, to main- 
tain. The standard of true virtue, of the simple life, is so easy 
of attainment that one has only to let go and he will fall into it 
naturally and without effort. The difficulty is in letting go, so 
electrified is the world by the idea of possession. 

" Having emptied yourself of everything," says our author, 
" remain where you are." This is called " going Home " ; and, 
as we have seen, the path we have to take is that which leads 
backward. This is the Path of Tao. 



When a wise man hears the Tao, he follows it. 

When one of average mind hears it, he 
holds to it a while and presently loses it. 


When a foolish man hears it, he only laughs 
at it. 

If it were not held in derision by such men, 
it could not rightly be called Tao. 

Therefore, as the verse-makers would say: — 

Who shines with Tao is lost in shade ; 
His path in Tao is retrograde, 
And all his actions are obscure. 
The highest virtue has no name. 
The greatest pureness seems but shame ; 
True wisdom seems the least secure. 
Inherent goodness seems most strange ; 
What most endures is changeless Change ; 
And squareness doth no angles make. 
The largest vessel none can gird ; 
The loudest voice was never heard ; 
The greatest thing no form doth take. 

For Tao is hidden, and it has no name ; but 
it is good at beginning and finishing. 

The author here shows the different moods in which the 
doctrine is received by men of various degrees of intelligence. 
Only the truly wise, the pure-hearted, hear the doctrine and 
hold to it. To be esteemed by the wise and scorned by the 
foolish and worldly is the guarantee of real worth. The parable 
of the Sower (Mark iv. 14-20) is in support of this observation 
of our author. 

In this chapter Laotze falls into verse after the manner of 


other Chinese writers of that period. The Shi-king comprises 
all the ancient poetry of China. Originally it contained 311 
odes, selected by Confucius out of some 3,000, but six of them 
have since been lost. The lines consist mostly of four words, 
and there are 7,374 hnes, or about 29,500 words in the Shi- 
king. In this example of the verse of that period, Laotze says 
that true virtue shines in obscurity, i.e. where it is most needed ; 
that the virtuous man " goes back to his Home in peace," and 
observes self-restraint and humility. The highest virtue, being 
a property of Tao, is not recognised- as virtue, and therefore 
has no name, while that which was natural to the pristine 
purity of the race is recognised as shameful because of the 
perverted nature of men's minds ; and in the same manner 
true wisdom is not relied upon for guidance, nor does it meet 
with any recognition in the world. " Inherent goodness " seems 
strange indeed to a condition of society which is honeycombed 
with deceits and subterfuges, veneered with shams and ostenta- 
tions, and wholly given over to selfishness, greed of gain, false 
standards of respectability, and prurient corruption. In the 
midst of all this shufHing of life's kaleidoscope, the broken 
pieces of coloured glass are made to fall into new and ever 
beautiful forms of symmetry, so that the world is always new 
and attractive, and always false and delusive ! 

All things will pass, this is a world of Change ; - 
Nothing endures, but caught on Life's great wheel, 

Old worlds evane, and stars both new and strange 
Ascend the heaven of Time for good or ill. 

But as Laotze here reminds us, Tao is " good at beginning 
and finishing." That which begins and finishes is the cause of 
existence. "Everything in the universe comes from Exist- 
ence," he says, "and Existence from Non-Existence." The 
Non-Existent is the Deity. Whatever has existence must 
change and perish. Only the Non-Existent is imperishable 
and unchangeable, and to that which subsists, unchanged and 
imperishable, the eternal Life, Intelligence and Substance of 


all existences, we give the name of Deity. We have therein 
great reason to bewail our limitations. 

"That which was before Heaven and Earth is called the 
Non- Existent," and it is that which begins and finishes all 
existences, being "good" throughout. Indeed, if God be not 
good at beginning and finishing, who shall attempt the work ? 
Good as Creator, good as Preserver, and good as Restorer ; 
verily, God is good and great in all His works, and His name 
is ineffable ! 



Tao emaned the One ; the one emaned the 
Two ; and the two emaned the Three. 

From the Three all things have proceeded. 

All things are backed by the Unmanifest 
and faced by the Manifest. 

That which unites them is the immaterial 

Orphanage, isolation, and a chariot without 
wheels are shunned by the people ; but kings 
and great men appropriate these names to 

For things are increased by being deprived ; 
and being added to they are diminished. 


That which people teach by their actions 
I make use of to instruct them. 

Those who are violent and headstrong, for 
example, do not die a natural death. 

They teach a good lesson, and so I make 
use of them. 

The Theogony of Taoism is simplicity itself, and by that 
virtue is characteristic of the whole doctrine. The One (Tao) 
emaned the Two (Heaven and Earth), and these two emaned 
the Three (Heaven, Earth, and Humanity). 

By Heaven we understand all that is spiritual in its nature, 
and by Earth all that is material. Man, compounded of 
heavenly and earthly natures, is at once a spiritual involution 
and a natural evolution — spiritual as to his soul, and natural 
as to his body. 

This is the ancient doctrine which preceded the Shintoism 
of the twelfth century B.C., and it appears to have been the 
sole religion of China under the successive rulers of the 
Patriarchal dynasty — Fuh-hi, Shin-nung, Hwang-ti, Shaou- 
haou, Chuen-hia, Ti-ko, Che, Yaou, and Shun. It remained 
in more or less of its natural purity through the succeeding 
dynasties of Hia and Shang, and was consistently taught as 
part of the ancient doctrine by the founders of the Chow 
dynasty, Wan-wang and Wu-wang. It was not until the times 
immediately prior to the birth of Laotze that a marked spiritual 
decadence was observable in China ; and of this more will be 
said in the concluding part of the present work. 

"That which unites them," says Laotze, speaking of the 
Three Emanations, "is the immaterial Breath." This term 
has a peculiar signification throughout the philosophies of the 
world, and its employment in this place is of great interest. 

In the Indian philosophy we find the name Brahma given to 


the Creator. It is derived from the root brih, " to expand," 
and from this we have the English verb " to breathe." The 
Hebrew words ab and abba, i.e. " father," have the same signifi- 
cation, while the Hebrew bra, "creation," is undoubtedly a 
cognate of the Sanskrit word brih. In the Genesis we have 
the expression, Ruach Elohim merecha'peth ol pent hamayim, 
i.e. "the Breath of God fluttered upon the face of the waters." 
The Logos, Verbum, or Word, has the same connotation, and 
by the Word, Voice, or Breath of God all things were made. 
Conceivably this " breath " is a living, quickening force, work- 
ing in the original essence of things to the production of forms 
of life. Those who are acquainted with the phenomena of 
sound-forms will understand more clearly than others how the 
"Voice of the Silence" underlies all manifestations of life. 

Laotze is frequently reiterative, and in this chapter he again 
speaks of the "greatness of humility" and "the fulness of 
privation." It has already been noted (Chapter XXVII.) that 
foolishness instructs wisdom, and here we may note how the 
philosopher avails himself of such instruction for the service of 
others. In this there is a divine economy, which finds a use 
for that which is apparently useless. 



The gentlest thing in the world "will override 
the strongest. 

The Non - Existent pervades everything, 
though there be no inlet. 

By this I comprehend how effectual is non- 


To teach without words and to be useful 
without action, few among men are capable 
of this. 

There is nothing gentler in the universe than God's love 
toward men. By that love all things whatsoever are sustained 
and nourished and preserved. No man, however strong or 
great, can so provide for the teeming life of even this our 
Earth, insignificant though it be in comparison with the ampli- 
tudes of space. The atmosphere, which enfolds and nourishes 
all forms of life with imperceptible gentleness, can on occasion 
gather its strength and go forth in irresistible power, uprooting 
trees, devastating cities, overturning towers and monuments, 
destroying bridges, wrecking ships, and dealing out death and 
destruction in all directions, It is not thus, however, that its 
greatest strength is shown, but in the gentle and silent work of 
sustaining life, wherein wealth and power and giant strength 
would prove wholly ineffectual. Nature teaches without words ; 
Heaven is useful without action. The unnatural and ungodly 
do not attain to this perfection of virtue. 



Which is the nearer to you, your name or 
your person ? 

Which is the more precious, your person or 
your wealth ? 


Which is the greater evil, to gain or to lose ? 
Great devotion requires great sacrifice. 
Great wealth implies great loss. 
He who is content can never be ruined. 
He who stands still will never meet danger. 
These are the people who endure. 

"Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than 
raiment?" the Master enquired of His disciples in the same 
spirit that Laotze is moved to this catechism. Life is more 
than meat or raiment, and the body is more than name or 

" What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and 
lose his own soul? What shall a man give in exchange for 
his soul?" If we are greatly devoted to worldly honours or 
to wealth, we must be prepared to make great sacrifices, for 
it is certain that sooner or later we shall be required to yield 
both honours and wealth. Wherefore, if one be content with 
his lot, and reconciled to all changes that may occur therein, 
he can never suffer by reversal of position nor by access of 
good fortune. And if the violent and headstrong are in danger 
of a violent death, they who stand still will escape such danger. 
Death is so certainly a consequence of life, that there is no 
need to go forward in haste to meet it. 

Abandoning all attachment to the things of life, one becomes 
non-attached to life itself, and the ultimate cessation of life 
appears as no privation. The case is so obvious that one 
wonders at the persistent reiteration of the doctrine by the 
great teachers. The trouble is that the world remains un- 
impressed by their teaching. 




He who sees that his highest attainments are 
always incomplete may go on working in- 

He who sees his greatest possessions to be 
inadequate may go on acquiring for ever. 

His highest rectitude is but crookedness. 

His greatest wisdom is but fooKshness. 

His sweetest eloquence is but stammering. 

Action overcomes cold ; inaction overcomes 

With virtue and quietness one may conquer 
the world. 

Human attainments at their very best are but comparative 
failures. They all fall short of perfection. With eternity 
before us we may go on eternally acquiring. What we know, 
in comparison with what is possibly knowable, is as a grain of 
sand in a desert. Sir Isaac Newton, in his last moments, spoke 
of himself as " a little child playing with the pebbles on the 
sea-shore," while the whole ocean of Truth lay wholly un- 
explored before him ! How thoroughly refreshing is this 
childlike humility which attaches to the really great mind 1 


When a man comes to this conclusion he is in the right 
frame of mind to begin learning. 

The wise in all ages have recognised that individual freewill 
and responsibility, and therefore also individual merit, lie rather 
in the mental attitude that we assume towards the affairs of life 
than in the affairs themselves. Men are not the makers, but 
only the users of circumstance. Before a man can control the 
course of events in regard to himself he must first negative 
the effects of all antecedent causes, and then must be able to 
control his own attitude in regard to his own environment. 
For it is a logical axiom that character and environment make 
up human destiny. That being so, there is nothing left save 
that the mental attitude towards the affairs of life renders it 
possible for one to fulfil its duties, acquire wealth and position, 
attain honour and learning, without attachment ; that is to say, 
without being involved in all the consequences of action. 

This mental attitude is the means of discriminating between 
what is an essential and what an accidental of life. And when 
a man discerns his crookedness he is by that discernment 
assured of essential rectitude. When he sees his best attain- 
ments to be incomplete, he is by that perception rendered 
capable of perfectability. It is only when ignorance and 
wickedness are not recognised as such that they are so deeply 

Laotze compares action with use or virtue {ieh) and stillness 
to self-restraint ; and by means of these two, virtue and self- 
restraint, he says the world may be conquered. For since by 
these we may conquer the self, the world is simultaneously 
conquered. By self-conquest we are able to regulate our 
mental attitude towards all things and persons, controlling 
them by our own self-control. When the world finds it cannot 
dispose of a thing, it generally ends by using and esteem- 
ing it. That is why mankind is certain to come back to the 
simplicity of Nature, and Tao. 




When Tao is in the world, horses are used in 
the pasture land. 

When Tao has left the world, chargers are 
reared in the wUderness. 

There is no greater sin than indulging desire. 

There is no greater pain than discontent. 

There is nothing more disastrous than the 
gi'eed of gain. 

Hence the satisfaction of contentment is an 
everlasting competence. 

The universal utility of the horse in the arts of peace and 
war has led writers in all ages to make reference to it and to 
employ it as a symbol, sometimes to denote the passions of 
men when wild, wayward, and unbridled ; frequently indicating 
utility, the conspicuous quality of the horse when properly 
trained and harnessed ; and sometimes symbolising the spiritual 
condition of man. Latterly there has been a disposition among 
civilised nations to abandon the horse in favour of mechanical 
modes of draught and conveyance, steam-engines, tramcars 
driven by means of electricity, cable, and steam, oil and electric 
motor-cars and bicycles following one another in quick suc- 
cession. The friend of man seemed in danger of an universal 
disparagement. But Nature laid hold of the passions of men 
to befriend the dumb animal, and worked a wonder in its own 
quiet way. It first brought the great planets together in the 


sign of the Scorpion, gathering together all that it was able 
of the forces in the solar system, and bringing them into array 
against the great Dragon and the greed of gain it was held 
to signify. The Sun, the Moon, Uranus, Saturn, Mars, and 
Mercury answered to the call, and with these " stars in their 
courses" Nature stirred up in appropriate places the elements 
of greed, ambition, lust, and discord. And four years later 
(in December, 1899) all these occursers were brought together 
again in the sign of the Horseman, and the value of horses 
was nearly doubled ! For when Tao leaves the world to its 
own resources, one may trust men of the world to put prices 
up all round ! From this piece of astrological reasoning one 
may be led to consider whether, after all. Nature is not always 
and altogether on the side of peace and gentleness. Certainly 
when man begins to disparage Nature and the things which 
she has provided for his use, and when he goes about in- 
venting new methods of living, stimulating old appetites by 
new sensations, then Nature begins to rouse herself and assert 
her ancient rights. 

"There is no greater sin than indulging desire and no greater 
pain than discontent," says our author. Indulging desire under 
the pretext of redressing wrongs is a thing of daily happening. 
To put recent history very plainly, one may say, without much 
fear of contradiction, that if Armenia had possessed a reef or 
two of workable gold, a diamond mine, or anything of greater 
commercial value than Mount Ararat to call its own, its wrongs 
would long since have been avenged and even redressed. If 
the Transvaal had only its farm-produce on which to rely for 
its revenues, would Great Britain have spent one hundred and 
thirty millions sterling in overturning its corrupt Government ? 
I do not pretend to understand these things, but I have noticed 
that no wrongs are so speedily redressed as those which are 
done to the rich and powerful. Yet I have seen the sorrows 
of a poor man assuaged and the sores of a Lazarus healed 
more quickly than those of a prince, which I consider to be 
a remarkable fact. But then, one was obviously nearer to the 
heart of Nature than the other. 




A MAN may know the world without leaving 
his own home. 

Through his windows he can see the supreme 

The further afield he goes the less likely is 
he to find it. 

Therefore the wise man knows without 
travelling, names things without seeing them, 
and accomplishes everything without action. 

It may be that Laotze is here speaking in terms of human 
nature, indicating that self-knowledge will suffice for all worldly 
experience, and that Tao is to be found within oneself by means 
of introspection, and attained by contentment and non-action, 
as already indicated in preceding chapters. Or, on the other 
hand, he may be speaking in terms of supernormal perception, 
to which. reference has been made in these commentaries in 
connection with the science of Yoga, which is the union of the 
human soul with the Divine Being, and of the body with 
Nature, the complete " at onement." 

The belief in the possibility of attaining supernormal powers 
is everywhere current in the East, and in India the science by 
which these faculties [siddhis), presumably latent in all human 
beings, are brought into activity and under the control of the 
will is called Yoga, i.e. Union. The word is derived from the 


root yuj, " to join," equivalent to the Latin jugum; and from 
the Sanskrit yoga we obtain the English word " yoke," to join 

There are two chief aspects of this science, both of which 
have their advocates and adherents throughout India at the 
present day. The one is Hathayoga, which seeks to enlarge 
the mental faculties by control of the physical functions ; and 
the other is called Rdjyoga, and aims at the complete subjection 
of all the faculties by steadying the mind and directing it to the 
contemplation of spiritual subjects, and finally to God. 

The former system proceeds by a number of religious austeri- 
ties to acquire an indifference to pleasure and pain, which 
state is called vairhgya. It then seeks to obtain phenomenal 
control over the physical functions by means of the science of 
breathing {sward), and finally it emerges in the display of a 
number of phenomenal powers {siddhis), such as reversing the 
polarity of the body so as to produce levitation, suspending 
animation by control of the breath {samcidhi), abstaining en- 
tirely from food, and having complete mastery of the physical 
functions. Such Bairkgis are turned out by India in swarms at 
all her great festivals, and form a truly pitiable and revolting 

Rdjyoga proceeds by two chief means to the attainment of its 
objective, namely, by vidya, or knowledge, and by bhakti, or 
devotion, both being effected by religious and philosophical 
contemplation. To this, or a very similar school of practice, 
our author appears to have belonged. Among the religio- 
philosophical cults of the West, Gnosticism appears to have 
embraced a very similar system of thought and practice. 

I suppose there is nothing better attested in the world than 
the existence, in certain individuals, of abnormal or super- 
normal faculties. The mere existence to-day of the common 
conjurer and the professional clairvoyant is a priori evidence of 
the past existence, in rare cases, of the genuine faculty. Pinch- 
beck would never have been invented had not gold been so 
highly esteemed. Scripture is abundant in recital of these 


instances of supernormal faculty, and, indeed, it would appear 
that great teachers in all ages have made appeal to the minds 
of their followers by means of that most powerful of all evi- 
dence — the evidence of the senses. They did not, however, 
omit to characterise the witnesses at the same time as an 
ignorant, perverse, and faithless generation. For, after all, it 
will be seen that such evidence is not in any way a guarantee 
of the truth of a doctrine. If one should say that reasoning is 
of two kinds, deductive and inductive, that would not demon- 
strate the specific gravity of iron, or determine the ratio of the 
diameter of a circle to its circumference. And if one is able to 
perform what is called a " miracle " — a thing of wonder — he is 
not thereby entitled to claim more than an extraordinary know- 
ledge of natural laws. It gives him no title to any degree of 
spiritual authority, and warning of this necessity for discern- 
ment is conveyed in the following words of Scripture : " For 
there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and they shall 
show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were pos- 
sible, they shall deceive the very elect." 

Scientific statements require scientific proofs ; mathematical 
statements require mathematical proofs ; logical statements 
require logical proofs ; and in the same manner spiritual state- 
ments can only be tested by spiritual standards and evidence. 
Whether our philosopher had, by spiritual exaltation or other 
means, attained to yogic powers there is no evidence to show ; 
but from the last line of this chapter it is evident that he knew 
of the existence of such powers. 

Whatever is the subject of reason is also the subject of doubt, 
for we only reason concerning that which is not obvious. In- 
tuition, which may be called the higher sense of spiritual 
cognition, sees and knows by direct perception, and is altogether 
distinct in its operations from either the sense or reason. 

But perhaps Laotze is speaking mystically, and means no 
more than this. By knowledge of Tao we know the essence of 
things ; their externals are mere details. By knowledge of Tao 
we know the qualities of things ; their names are simply adjuncts 


for the purpose of distinction. By knowledge of Tao we pro- 
duce results without further action, for having attained Tao we 
have effected everything. Learning is the perception of differ- 
ences. Wisdom is the perception of similarities. The final 
statement of wisdom must be : Omnia sunt unutn in Deo. 



Bodily and mental distress is increased every 
day in the effort to get knowledge. 

But this distress is daily diminished by the 
getting of Tao. 

Do you continually curtail your effort tUl 
there be nothing of it left ? 

By non-action there is nothing which cannot 
be ejffected. 

A man might, without the least distress, 
undertake the government of the world. 

But those who distress themselves about 
governing the world are not fit for it. 

The quest of knowledge is indeed a distressful thing, and 
after all knowledge wholly consists in the perception of differ- 
ences. There is, in the very nature of it, no possible end to the 
task; and there is hence no satisfaction. Giordano Bruno says 
in his Delia Causa Prituipio ed Uno (" Concerning the First and 


only Cause") : " The omnipotence of Deity is better expressed 
in the production of an infinite variety of worlds of various 
dimensions than in the production of a single world of infinite 
dimensions." And if man's intelligence cannot grasp all things 
included in the life of this little world of ours, how can he hope 
to exhaust the infinite multitude of things comprised in the life 
of an apparently boundless universe of worlds ? How can the 
finite comprehend the Infinite ? 

Laotze says that it may be done by a knowledge of the Tao. 
There are things which are hid from the wise and prudent and 
revealed unto babes. Tao is of this nature. The knowledge 
of it is compassed by Simplicity. If a man inflates himself 
with an incessant stuffing down of knowledge, what room is 
there left for Tao ? Shall the world go on continually increas- 
ing its pace in the race for life ? Must the struggle for existence 
become ever fiercer and sterner than of old ? Or shall we not 
emerge suddenly, as by a great revulsion of feeling, from the 
heat and madness of the strife, starting at the whispered word, 
" Where is Abel, thy brother f^' Enough! enough! Tell us 
the end of all this, ye pioneers of modern civilisation, and let 
us say whether we see any hope of attainment your way. If 
necessity be the whetstone of intelligence, it is certain that it 
can sharpen a sword or a guillotine as readily as a pruning- 
hook or a sickle ! Let us be careful and respectfully cautious, 
for this intelligence of ours is a dangerous thing. 

Withal, Laotze appears to be justified by the Spirit of Truth, 
for he is not alone among the teachers of the world who have 
foreseen the distress of knowledge and abuse of wealth. 
Another and a higher advocate of the doctrine of Simplicity 
said at a later date, " Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His 
righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." 
Laotze is true to the spirit of the ages also when he says of the 
kingdom of heaven, " The further a man goes in search of it, 
the less likely is he to find it." Here is his warrant and testi- 
mony : " If any man shall say, 'Lo here ! ' or 'Lo there ! ' believe 
him not. . . . The kingdom of heaven is within you." 




The wise man has no fixed opinions to call 
his own. 

He accommodates himself to the minds of 

I would return good for good ; I would 
also return good for evil. 

Virtue is good. 

I would meet trust with trust ; I would 
likewise meet suspicion with confidence. 

Virtue is trustful. 

The wise man lives in the world with 
modest restraint, and his heart goes out in 
sympathy to all men. 

The people give him their confidence, and 
he regards them aU as his children. 

One has only to express ignorance of anything, and there are 
at once hundreds who are ready to inform him fully. Opinions 
are as numerous as the pebbles on the shore, and as various. 
They are also equally cheap ! It is the scarcity of things that 


gives them their value and makes them greatly esteemed. 
That is why, in an enlightened age, simplicity is more esteemed 
than learning, and the humble are better served than kings. 

Observe the restraint with which the learned approach their 
equals in knowledge. With what distrust they regard one 
another ; how carefully they weigh their words ; how they 
fence with one another for an advantage, and with what 
meagreness they exude their drops of learned nectar under 
pressure, as if one were abstracting milk from cheese ! But 
they are otherwise in the presence of the child-like and simple- 
minded. These they gladly fill with gratuitous information, 
giving of their best in princely fashion ! It is, therefore, better 
to empty oneself of all preconceptions, and become teachable 
and simple-minded. Why should one trouble to form opinions 
of one's own when all the world is ready to bring them to him 
ready made ? And as so many are concerned in the making, 
so much the greater variety is there to choose from. And if 
men will not supply one's deficiency, perchance Nature will ; 
for it is observed that she spends much time in filling up empty 
spaces, having a distaste for the vacuous. But if even Nature 
will not do it for one, then the Infinite Goodness must indeed 
compassion us ; for it is said : " Blessed are the empty, for they 
shall be filled 1 " Perchance this were the better way, that 
one should be filled with goodness and virtue and the essentials 
of knowledge from the Source of Wisdom and Virtue, than 
that he should be filled through a variety of channels with 
knowledge in which there is no essential virtue. 

Having nothing to call one's own, a man can give generously 
without incurring the risk of merit ; he can trust all, since none 
can rob him ; and he can return good for evil and lose nothing 
in the act. Why not give up to God and Nature what is already 
their own ? We cannot deny the debt ; why should we go about 
to increase it, making it ever more and more difficult to pay 
back and regain our freedom ? 




Men go forth from Life and enter into Death. 
The Gates of Life are thirteen in number ; 
and the same are the Gates of Death, 

By as many wjtes does Life pass quickly 
into Death, And wherefore ? 

Because men strive only after the Sensuous 

It has been said that one who knows how 
to safeguard Life can go through the country 
without protection against the rhinoceros and 
tiger. I ' 

He may ente^ into* battle without fear of 
the sword. 

The rhinoceros finds no place wherein to 
drive his horn. ' 

The tiger finds no place wherein to fix his 

The sword finds no place wherein to thrust 

Why is this ? 

It is because he has overcome Death. 


This chapter contains two allegories : that which concerns 
Life as the Gate of Death, and that which relates to Death 
as the Gate of Life. Laotze uses the symbol of Kwan-yin, the 
Mother of Humanity, Nature. The thirteen gates are the thir- 
teen orifices of the female body. The Mystics divide them thus : 
The Higher Septenary, comprising the orifices of the head — 
the two eyes, the two ears, the two nostrils and the mouth. 
The Superior Natural Triad, comprising the two breasts and 
the navel. The Lower Natural Triad, comprising the two 
organs of excretion and the organ of generation. 

By so many Gates mankind enters into the knowledge of 
earthly life, and " the same are the Gates of Death.'' St. Paul, 
in his luminous address to the Corinthians on the nature of the 
resurrection, shows that man is concerned in life and death 
with two bodies — "a natural body and a spiritual body." Of 
the natural body he says : " It is sown in corruption and dis- 
honour." Of the spiritual body he says : " It is raised in glory 
and incorruption." 

By the body of Nature we are born into Death, and by the 
body of the Spirit we are born into Life. For Life is the 
attribute of the Spirit, and, Death is that of the body. There- 
fore our author says : " Men go forth from life and enter into 
death," and on the other hand he says of Tao : " It goes forth 
and enters into Itself!" It is incorruptible and unchangeable. 

If one would safeguard life, it is first necessary that he should 
distinguish between the living and the dead ; and having given 
up that which is corrupt and full of dishonour, he will be able 
to lay hold on eternal verities and become a vessel of life infilled 
by the Eternal Spirit, which is the Tap, the Truth and the Life. 
The second parable employs the familiar illustrations of the East 
as related to the causes of death. The rhinoceros represents 
the selfishness of the pushful and thick-skinned individual who 
knows only his own desires and will have his own way even 
at the cost of suffering in others. The tiger symbolises the 
passions of man, the predatory stealth and watchfulness which 
is allied to bloodthirstiness and fierceness of spirit. The sword 


denotes strife and dissension, the severing of ties that are 
natural to human Hfe. When the Sage says that the man who 
can take care of life will not be hurt by any of these things, he 
means that one who cherishes the immortal spirit will not be 
touched by any of the causes of death, because he has overcome 
death in having overcome himself. As an Oriental Scripture 
says : " Slain tigers cannot turn and rend you ! " 



Tao brings forth, and Teh nourishes. 

All things take up their several forms, and 
natural forces bring them to perfection. 

Therefore all things conspire to exalt Tao 
and to cherish virtue. 

But this regard of Tao and Teh is not in 
deference to any mandate. 

It is unconstrained, and therefore it endures 
for ever. 

For Tao produces all things, and Teh 
nourishes, increases, feeds, matures, protects, 
and watches over them. 

^ To produce without possessing; to work 
without expecting ; to enlarge without usurp- 
ing ; this is the subhme virtue I 


All things whatsoever are exalted in their several virtues. It 
is the virtue ( Tefi) of Tao to produce, and it is therefore exalted 
in its productions. It is the Teh (virtue or special aptitude) of 
Nature to cherish and sustain those productions, and by this 
cherishing it is exalted. For the Creator has honour in His 
creatures, the king has honour in his subjects, the mother has 
honour in her children, and the teacher has honour in his pupils. 

But man, who produces nothing, but only uses or abuses 
things as he finds them, takes the honour and credit of action, 
of possession, and of increase to himself, because he has missed 
his mark and lost his virtue, and is running after things which 
do not concern him. He puts together this and that and calls 
it an invention, securing it to himself by letters patent, taking 
glory in it as if it were a thing new-sprung from the womb of 
Nature. But if heaven produces this and that and cements 
them with an idea, we may rightly regard the whole thing as a 
divine combination, and not anything in which man has any 
proprietory rights. Philanthropy and altruism are out of date, 
and so the particular form of food that is advertised as contain- 
ing " all things necessary for sustaining life " is certain to be a 
patent yielding a profit of anything over twenty-five per cent, 
profit to its manufacturer or proprietor. But we have a right 
to wonder whether mankind is so greatly benefited by these 
complexities of machinery and dividends. Where shall we 
find productiveness without the desire to possess, industry 
without hope of reward, enlargement of the sphere of activity 
without usurpation of the rights of others? Yet one may see 
men and women by hundreds working for years in succession 
at their several "hobbies," taking their satisfaction in the mere 
act, and looking for no ulterior reward. Some of the greatest 
works on record have been done in what we call " spare time,'' 
and done without thought of fame or remuneration. One sees 
the same thing in the divine offices of motherhood, wherein 
each successive day is filled with the same ungrudging care 
for the offspring, with ever new sacrifices and ever growing 
love, through all the long years of pain and tribulation. And 


only one thing is certain to the mother's heart. Each day of 
such maternal care gives the child additional strength to stand 
alone. Each day takes it another step further from the mother's 
side. Yet the mother, knowing this, helps it 1 

" Great devotion requires great sacrifice," says the Sage, and 
it is consoling to see that in spite of all the injustice and greed 
and vanity of the world, humanity is capable of great devotion, 
and also of great sacrifice. 



That from which the universe sprang may be 
looked upon as its Mother. 

By knowing the Mother you have access to 
the child. 

And if, knowing the chUd, you prefer the 
Mother, though your body perish, yet you 
wiU come to no harm. 

Keep your mouth shut, and close up the 
doors of sight and sound, and as long as you 
live you wiU have no vexation. 

But open your mouth, or become inquisitive, 
and you wiU be in trouble all your Ufe long. 

To perceive things in the germ is intelligence. 

To remain gentle is to be invincible. 


Follow the light that guides you homeward, 
and do not get lost in the darkness. 

This I call using the eternal. 

It will be remembered that Laotze has already spoken of 
Existence as the first Emanation : " The One emaned the 
two," that is to say, the First Great Cause produced Heaven 
and Earth, or Spirit and Matter. This Spirit, as the First 
Existence, he calls the "Mother" of all things. Iji the sixth 
chapter he says : " Like the river of the valley, the Spirit is 
never dried up. I call it the Mother-deep." 

By Spirit-Matter, or " Heaven and Earth," we must under- 
stand the whole of Nature, noumenal and phenomenal, visible 
and invisible. 

By the union of Heaven and Earth mankind is bom into the 
world, being compounded of the flesh and the Spirit. Where- 
fore, as Laotze says, by knowing Nature we have access to 
her offspring, and if, knowing the latter (humanity), we prefer 
Nature, we shall come to no harm. 

The Old Philosopher goes on to illustrate the great amount of 
trouble involved in depending on the sense-perceptions. Our 
senses are deceived by their own limitations, our reason is 
assailed by doubts, and our minds are led astray by lying 
sophistries. Speech, originally a means of expressing our 
natural feelings, is now a fine art too frequently used only to 
simulate feelings which we do not possess, or to cloak those 
which we do not wish to reveal. Hence there is a lack of 
spontaneity in human relations. The influence of this art of 
simulation upon the individual and national character is of a 
most subtle, pernicious, and enduring nature. It culminates in 
that particular form of self-deception which is quickly followed 
by complete loss of faith in one's own ideals and principles, and 
a plunge into spiritual degeneracy — a soul-suicide — the dread 
consequence of this habit of mental and moral intoxication. 


And when a man has lost faith in himself he will not show any 
faith in others, which is another aspect of the fact that " where 
faith is lacking it is not met with trust." That repudiation 
of our brotherhood, which first fell from the lips of the man 
" Cain," has spread its cancerous roots through the world to 
such an extent that the preservation of individual integrity is 
hardly possible except by a degree of isolation wholly un- 
natural to 'man. To the spiritual eye the world appears to 
be filled with mummers, moving stealthily about among the 
shadows, masked and muffled and cloaked like so many 
conspirators. And they call this evil-looking Society the 
" Brotherhood of Man " ! 

We are in danger of losing our way in the darkness. 
" Follow the light that leads you home," says the Sage ; 
follow the original doctrine of Simplicity ; follow the Light 
of the World, which shineth in the darkness and is not com- 
prehended, the true light that lighteth every man when he 
cometh into the world. Little children have this light ; it is 
in their eyes, in every fibre of their being ; they are filled 
with it, and radiate it like a golden halo. Who that is not 
blind has not seen it ? Every man has it ; but many stand 
in fear of it, lest it should reveal them to themselves for 
what they are, and so they hide it away under a bushel. It 
is the source of their infant goodness, purity, and truth. It is 
their original Simplicity. 



Ah that I were wise enough to follow the 
great Tao 1 

Administration is a great undertaking. 


The great Tao is extremely simple, but the 
people prefer the complex ways. 

While the palace is extremely well ap- 
pointed, the fields may be full of tares, and 
the granaries may be empty. 

To dress grandly, to carry sharp swords, to 
eat and drink excessively, and to amass great 
wealth, this I call stylish theft. 

That it is not Tao is certain. 

It is evident that the Old Philosopher had it in his heart 
to be a great reformer, but his doctrine forbade any such inter- 
ference with human polity. The management of such reforms 
as are necessary in the world he would wisely leave to God. 
He perceived that the complexity of life first of all arose from 
the conflict between the higher and lower natures of man, 
from the effort to accommodate the human to the bestial and 
the spiritual to the carnal. He wisely discerned between the 
essential good in man and the accidental evil in his life. He 
saw man in equilibrium, and therefore in freedom ; in freedom, 
and therefore in conflict — which latter he saw to arise from the 
insecurity of freedom to the individual. He saw mankind 
inclining to evil in the pursuit of wealth, position, fame, and 
power ; and this meant that man was in danger of losing the 
freedom into which he was born. He therefore made his 
appeal to the higher nature of man, and wisely left the rest 
jo Jleaven. 

As one having held office under the Emperor King-wang, 
the Old Philosopher must have had ample opportunity of 
contrasting the life at the Palace with that of the people 


without, and his conclusion was that "administration is a 
difficult thing." For while the king may himself be intent on 
simple and virtuous living, the country may be full of rogues 
and bandits, the people may have no proper food for their 
minds, the natural industries may be neglected, and provender 
may be scarce in the land. Therefore he looks upon all dis- 
tinctions arising from difference of estate to be a source of 
complexity and evil, and he calls it stylish theft. " That it is 
not Tao is certain." For the distinction of Tao is its simplicity, 
and the greatness of Tao is its unity. 



He who plants rightly never uproots. 

He who lays hold rightly never re- 

His posterity wiU honour him continually. 

Whoever develops the Tao in himself wiU 
be rooted in virtue. 
Whoever develops the Tao in his family 

will cause his virtue to spread. 

Whoever develops the Tao in his village 
will increase prosperity. 

Whoever develops the Tao in the kingdom 
will make good fortune prevalent. 


Whoever develops Tao in the world will 
make virtue universal. 

I observe myself, and so I come to know 

I observe my family, and aU others grow 

I study this world, and others come within 
my knowledge. 

How else should I come to know the laws 
which govern all things, save thus, that I 
observe them in myself? 

The Sage likens the Tao to a plant which has its root in the 
heart of every man, and thence by cultivation springs forth in 
widespreading branches. The old maxim, Ab uno disce omnes, 
is closely followed by Laotze. By the study of his own nature 
and that of the people by whom he was immediately sur- 
rounded, he obtained the key to the knowledge of human 
nature generally. By studying his own country he came to 
know others. Whether he came to know them with any 
minuteness or particularity is not certain ; but great things 
have been achieved by the use of the scientific imagination, 
and still greater things by the intuitive sense. As a man 
of deep thought he might have argued inferentially that as 
Nature is universal, so are its forces, and these forces, acting 
under similar conditions, would produce similar phenomena. 
Astronomy, already a science of considerable advancement in 
China at that date, would have instructed him as to the causes 
of variation in climate : where there were high mountains he 


would argue rapid streams, and where there was a range of 
such mountains he would infer the existence of great rivers. 
He could say with tolerable accuracy that such rivers would 
flow eastward. He would locate the great cities near the 
mouths of such rivers ; he would see migration flowing west- 
ward. He would fashion his notions of dress and food and 
habitation by his deductions regarding climate. He would 
study the politics of his own country, and would know that 
where there were many rulers there would be intrigues and 
intestine wars, that the people would live in fear of their neigh- 
bours, and that so much concern about one's neighbours would 
lead to neglect of individual business and duties ; therefore he 
would argue a condition of widespread poverty and dissatis- 
faction. Where the territory was small, the people would be 
more united and intent upon enlarging their borders ; where 
the territory was large, he would find room for differences of 
opinion. Thus from slender knowledge he might logically infer 
much, seeing that he was well acquainted with human nature 
and human needs. 

In his own country he would have observed that the character 
of the hill-tribes was wild and free and rugged, while that of 
the people of the plains was more suave and placid and polished. 
He would have observed that this was a reflection of their 
environment, and that it affected their speech in equal measure 
with their characters. Indeed, there is little that he could not 
have derived from a knowledge of so much as lay under his 
immediate daily observation in China, for there is but little 
difference in human nature the world over, while the laws which 
govern man and Nature are universally the same. 

On the other hand, he may have used an intuitive or super- 
normal faculty such as appears to be awakened in man in 
certain phases of spiritual exaltation. If Saul of Tarsus can 
see Ananias coming to his house and touching kis eyes that 
he might receive his sight, before that event happened, and 
if it could be given to Ananias to heal him, there is nothing 
singular in the supposition that similar powers of direct per- 


ception should have been possessed by Laotze. In fact, it 
would appear that this superior order of faculty is normal to 
certain spiritualised conditions of life, and just what those 
conditions are must be a matter of special inquiry with those 
who desire to understand these mysteries of the human mind. 
But in regard to the variety of such faculties and the unity of 
their source, St. Paul writes very explicitly in his epistle from 
Philippi to the Corinthians. 



The man who is saturated with Virtue is 


hke a little child. 

Scorpions will not sting him, wild beasts 
wiU not'seize him, nor will birds of prey pluck 
at him. 

His young bones are not hard, neither are 
his sinews strong, yet his grasp is firm and 

He is full of viriUty, though unconscious of 
his sex. 

Though he should cry out all day, yet he 
is never hoarse. 

Herein is shown his harmony with Nature. 

The knowledge of this harmony is the 
eternal Tao. 


The knowledge of the eternal Tao is il- 

Habits of excess grow upon a man, and the 
mind, giving way to the passions, they increase 
day by day. 

And when the passions have reached their 
climax, they also fail. 

This is against the nature of Tao. 

What is contrary to Tao soon comes to 
an end. 

Spiritualised man is frequently compared to a little child in 
this work of Laotze, in the later works of the Taotze com- 
mentators, and also in the New Testament Scriptures. 

The statement that such are invulnerable to all hurt by 
reptiles, wild beasts, and birds of prey may be spoken liter- 
ally ; and if so, I am, for my own part, prepared to accept it 
literally. Not that one should pass per saltum from the possible 
to the probable and thence to the actual ; but that there is an 
argument, both rational and scientific, for a belief in an earthly 
millennium and a spiritualised humanity, when in very deed 
" the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and a little child shall 
lead them." If Daniel could come forth unharmed from a den 
of famished lions, if Paul could shake a viper from his hand and 
remain unhurt, while others looking on had cause to see him fall 
dead, may we not conclude that the Supreme Virtue can effect a 
like thing for others in whom the Spirit is equally present? And 
Laotze is here speaking of those who are "saturated" with the 
Tao. Rightly speaking, there is no age in which the miraculous 
does not supersede the norm, and no age in which the miracle 


is not comprehended by the purely natural. But the greatest 
miracle that can ever happen — a miracle that is nevertheless 
already provided for by Nature — will have place in the world 
when man, not constrained by the fear of death or other mortal 
terror, and not persuaded by the hope of a speedy reward, 
shall turn of his own freewill to the Simple Way and re- 
become a little child. 

His bones shall be supple and tender indeed, for he will hold 
no fixed opinions, but will be plastic of mind, teachable, and 
accommodating. Yet his grasp will be firm and sure, for he 
will lay hold on verities, and they will not elude his grasp. A 
child can hold on to a rock, when a strong man cannot hold 
on to a sandhill. That which is held is ever of more conse- 
quence than the manner of holding. 

In his regenerate and spiritualised condition the man will be 
proof against malice, unhurt by violence, and will form no food 
for the avaricious. The virtue of perfect Simplicity will dis- 
arm malice as does the innocence of childhood ; it will be 
guileless and inoffensive, adaptable and yielding, so that the 
gentleness of its nature will avoid all strife ; and because it 
does not display its wealth, and has nothing which it calls its 
own jealousy and coveteousness will pass it by. 



He who knows the Tao does not discuss it, 
and those who babble about it do not know it. 

To keep the lips closed, to shut the doors of 
sight and sound, to smooth off the corners, to 


temper the glare, and to be on a level with 
the dust of the earth, this is the mysterious 

Whoever observes this will regard alike 
both frankness and reserve, kindness and 
injury, honour and degradation. 

For this reason he wlU be held in great 
esteem of all men. 

We do not make the obvious a subject of discussion. A man 
may argue for indefinite freewill, but once he comes into con- 
flict with the will of Heaven he drops his polemics, and begins 
to rub the battered organ of his self-esteem. If a man cannot 
see the will of God expressed in the pre-established harmony of 
things in the laws of Nature, it is certain that discussion will 
not help him ; for the hand of God is so palpably in touch with 
all things that one cannot but feel the vitality of it. But those 
who babble about the obvious make use of too many words to 
express the mediocrity of their intelligence. God gains nothing 
from the advocacy of fools. 

If the Divine Being is not sufficiently illustrated in this won- 
drous universe, it is for all that not within man's power to 
complete the evidence. 

To keep one's own counsel with God, to leave others to the 
enjoyment of their beliefs, to cease from the discernment of 
differences, to forego all pomp and vanity and not to shine in 
the daylight, to accommodate oneself to the likes and dislikes 
of others, and to become so humble as to be only natural — this 
is what the Sage calls the " Mysterious Virtue." 

The world may go on its ceaseless round, but the wise man 
abandons the competition and strikes the short road for home, 


reaching, with no greater loss than that of worldly distinction, 
a point in evolution which the world at large will only arrive at 
some thirty centuries later. The man of Tao reaches home 
without effort and in good breath. The people also will get 
home, but only after much distress, and the Sage will be there 
to meet them. It is better to walk straight and reach one's 
home than to distress oneself with running, and break down, 
after all, in the wilderness. " Follow the light that leads you 
home," says Laotze, " and do not get lost in the darkness." 



The righteous man may rule the nation. 

The strategic man may rule the army. 

But the man who refrains from active 
measures should be the king. 

How do I know how things should be ? 

I know by this : — 

When the actions of the people are con- 
trolled by prohibited laws, the country be- 
comes more and more impoverished. 

When the people are aEowed the free use 
of arms, the Government is in danger. 

The more crafty and dexterous the people 


become, the more do artificial things come 
into use. 

And when these cunning arts are pubhcly 
esteemed, then do rogues prosper. 

Therefore the wise man says : — 
I will design nothing ; and the people will 
shape themselves. 

I will keep quiet ; and the people wiU find 
their rest. 

I will not assert myself; and the people 
will come forth. 

I wiU discountenance ambition ; and the 
people wiU revert to their natural simpUcity. 

It has already been observed that Laotze had it in his power, 
if not in his thought, to become a great reformer, but he was 
too wise to take it in hand. " I perceive," he says, " that when 
a man with a taste for reforming the world takes it in hand, 
there will be no end to it." 

We have in this chapter some of the reasons which appear 
to have influenced Laotze to refrain from active measures. 

Some may consider the policy of our author to have been a 
species of quietism, a policy of inaction and apathy. It was 
none of these. That he was himself an industrious, truth- 
seeking, and humane person is well-established. He desired 
the advancement and welfare of the people, the solidarity of 
the empire, and the integrity of its laws. But he was no 
temporiser nor sycophant. He recognised that there were 


two methods of reform at all times possible — the methods of 
patching up and that of reverting to Nature. Elsewhere he 
calls these methods " lopping the branches " and " feeding the 
root." And he was in favour of reverting to Nature an(d 
"feeding the root." The whitewashing of sepulchres appears 
to have been an ancient practice, and the patching up of 
obsolete institutions is still the favourite work of some forms 
of government. The enactment of temporary laws, of palliative 
measures which do not go to the root of things, is almost the 
sole business of modern governments. Prohibitory laws are 
so numerous and complex that a body is hedged in by the 
" must " and " must not " of local and statute law and of modern 
conventionality, and what he may or might do of his own 
natural goodness is almost sure to offend. Some day, when 
the people are caught in this net of their own weaving, its 
complexity will prove to be a matter of dismay. And in those 
days benevolence will be a proprietory article in the hands of 
the capitalists. 

Whitewashing a house may give it a good outside appearance, 
but it will not secure domestic peace to those that dwell in it. 
If the world is to be reformed we must get at the root of it. 
We must reform the mind of the world, and the body of it will 
be regulated at the same time. To put a pig in a palace will 
not make of it a gentleman. Left to itself, it will choose the 
sty. By making citizenship compulsory we have cleared the 
seas of pirates and the hills of bandits, but you will find them 
in all our great cities. As to the expediency of herding the 
wolves with the sheep, those who have the matter of govern- 
ment in hand should be able to decide. If our author would 
have made the great pirate an admiral and the great bandit a 
general, it would not have been on considerations of merit, but 
of utility ; for we know that while he repudiated merit, he had 
great regard for the natural uses of things and persons. And 
perhaps, after all, this would be better than making outlaws 
and enemies of all pirates and bandits 1 





A FREE and generous government gives the 
people a chance to develop. 

When the government is rigid and exacting 
the people are cramped and miserable. 

Misery is but the shadow of happiness. 

Happiness is but the cloak of misery. 

When will there be an end to them ? 

If we dispense with rectitude, distortion will 
assert itself ; and what was good in its way will 
give place to what is evil. 

Verily the people have been under a cloud 
for a long time. 

Therefore the wise man is fuU of rectitude, 
but he does not chip and carve at others. 

He is just, but does not admonish others. 

He is upright, but he does not straighten 

He is enlightened, but he does not offend 
with his brightness. 


If every man could exercise individual self-government, the 
work of administration would be reduced to a cipher. The 
Old Philosopher believed in giving the people a chance to 
develop themselves. Modern local government may be a 
step in the right direction ; but while people of one town are 
allowed to govern others — their neighbours — what may pass as 
neighbourly solicitude is apt to be mistaken for masterly inter- 

By throwing the responsibility of government on the people, 
the king is rendered free from censure. By putting the re- 
sponsibility on the individual, the people are not disgraced. 
But when the individual can take it upon himself to govern 
himself, both the king and the people have rest. 

By distributing honours the fire of ambition is quenched and 
the throne is rendered secure. By distributing wealth the 
canker of discontent is rooted out, ostentation is stifled, and 
the hungry are satisfied. By distributing work the yoke is 
everywhere lightened, and by not having to care so much for 
the bodily needs the people have more time to cultivate their 

This is the policy of government which Laotze would have 
us follow. It is a policy of freedom and liberality, of true 
conservatism. Misery and happiness are relative states, and 
the dominance of one over the other in the individual or 
nation constitutes the temporal condition of life. Neither one 
nor the other state is permanent. A man cannot be truly 
miserable till he has known happiness. It is the cloaking of 
happiness by misery that makes him wretched. Of the happy 
we observe that they are not miserable 5 of the miserable, that 
they are not happy. But even so we speak of a condittion 
that is both relative and temporary. Laotze would make an 
end of all that is temporary and comparative in human life. 
For happiness and misery he would substitute contentment j 
for government and authority he would advocate self-control 
and non-interference. In the elder generations of every age 
he will find many supporters, and in the world's maturity the 


idea will become universal. The world's first estate will also 
be its last, for as Laotze says, " Tao is hidden, and it has no 
name ; but it is good at beginning and finishing." 



In ruling men and in serving Heaven there 
I is nothing like moderation. 

By means of it one attains to his first estate. 

When this is attained a man is possessed of 
an indefinite store of virtue. 

With such a store of virtue he will over- 
come everything. 

And of this mastery there will be no limit. 

Thus, without hindrance, he may possess 
the Kingdom. 

Such a man has the mother-constitution, 
and will endure indefinitely. 

He is Uke the plant whose roots are deep 
and whose stem is firm. 

Thus may a man live long and see many 


Moderation is the keynote of the doctrine of Simplicity. 
There is nothing of the conventual, the ascetic, or the abnormal 
either in the Old Philosopher or his teachings. Fasting and 
praying are not the means whereby to move the Gates of 
Heaven. " My yoke is easy and My burden is light," said the 
Christ. "It is so easy that even a child can use it," says 

Taking the Gates of Heaven by storm, is one method ; 
wearing them away with importunity is another. Both methods 
have their advocates. But another and a simpler way is re- 
vealed by Laotze. 

" Having emptied yourself of everything, remain where you 
are," says the philosopher. "Whosoever he be of you that 
forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be My disciple," is the 
Master's ultimatum. Heaven is to be served with moderation I 
What is this ? Some new doctrine, surely I No, it is not 
that Heaven is to be served moderately, but by means of 
moderation ; as men are to be ruled, also by this means. 
We cannot be too strenuous in the service of Heaven, but 
it is not to be done by any kind of excessive effort. To 
moderate the thought and speech, to moderate feeling and 
action, and so to live the life of moderation, is to conserve 
one's powers and augment one's strength. Moderation, how- 
ever, does not apply solely to the quantities, but equally to 
the qualities of things in use. The man who regulates the 
quantity of nutriment he takes, without regard to its quality, 
will eventually be in as sad a condition as the immoderate eater 
and drinker ; and the same may be said of mental and spiritual 
sustenance. Deep-rooted in Nature, his branches streaming 
to the sky, the man of moderate habits outlasts his age ; for, 
having exercised moderation, his forces are conserved, and his 
store of natural virtue is unlimited. 




The state should be governed as we cook 
small fish, without much business. 

Bringing the Tao to the governing of the 
Kingdom will give rest to the shades of the 

Not that the Spirits wiU be inactive, but 
that they will cease to trouble the people. 

But what is of more importance, the wise 
ruler of the people will not hurt them. 

And in so far as they do not interfere with 
one another, their influences conspire to the 
general good I 

Simplicity, purity, and perfection are the qualities of the 
Taoic nature. The government of the people should be thus 
simple and pure and perfect. Elsewhere Laotze has said that 
we make too much business of the matter of government, and 
that our machinery is far too cumbersome and complex for the 
work that it is required to do. Virtue consists in being true 
to oneself, and charity in letting alone, he says ; and he affirms 
that interference with the liberty of the subject is the chief 
cause of the general lack of self-control. 

" To effect government by means of Tao is to give rest to 
the shades of the dead." We here come into touch with a 


phase of thought that is intimately connected with the esta- 
blished faith in the spiritual ministrations of deceased ancestors ; 
which faith found frequent expression in a variety of State 
functions in the days of Laotze, and had thus been recognised 
by successive rulers for at least twenty-five centuries previously. 
It was an essential part of the Shinto religion, a brief sketch 
of which will be found in my concluding notes to this work. 

Whether this ancestor-worship was based on any positive 
knowledge of the operation in human affairs of departed souls, 
is not a matter of certainty. It is specifically mentioned in the 
Shu-king, where there is abundant evidence of the fact that 
the highest respect was paid to the spirits of the deceased, and 
numerous sacrifices appointed in the ancestral temples of 
successive dynasties. The patriarchal ruler, Yaou, who sur- 
vived the deluge in China, B.C. 2348, enjoined these ceremonies 
upon the people, and himself observed them. In India at the 
present day the festival oi Shravanan (the "shriving" ceremony), 
which originally took place at the winter solstice on the solar 
entry into the sign of the Goat, is largely connected with 
Pitripuja, or "ancestor-worship," and on this occasion, as in 
the corresponding Chinese ceremony, the eldest son performs 
the invocation of the spirits of the progenitors. 

When man has discovered in himself the " X " rays of 
psychological science these questions will,. be capable of 
definite solution ; bjt at present one can only say that the 
experience of one is not sufficient for all, and the evidence 
of one will not serve for others. Therefore those who have 
such evidence should wisely keep their own counsel, or confer 
only with those in knowledge of like experiences. If on his 
return from the Yukon Valley a solitary traveller should 
declare that the gold there is practically unlimited, thousands 
will give up everything they hold and will rush for it. If 
another, coming from a distant country, declares that its 
produce is abundant and the soil capable of immense com- 
mercial development, the immigration of some few enterpris- 
ing and industrious people will follow in due course. But if 


one should come from beyond the veil, bringing with him 
such evidences as can be conveniently transported thence, the 
fault is in no way his that they do not appeal to the senses, 
though that is probably the only reason there is not an im- 
mediate and extensive exodus. Proofs must always be related 
to the nature of the subject in question. The explorer from 
the Yukon Valley bears with him the marks of his experience. 
The voyager from the distant El Dorado speaks in the un- 
familiar language of that cUme, he shows connectedness in 
his narrative, and although he has not brought El Dorado in 
his vest-pocket, few would deny his evidence. So also the 
man from a world beyond. " The tree is known by its fruit I " 



The kingdom, like a river, becomes great by 
being lowly ; it is thereby the centre to which 
all the world tends. 

It is similar in the case of woman : 

She conquers man by continual quietness. 

And quietness is the same as submission. 

Therefore a great state, by condescension 
to those beneath it, may gain the government 
of them. 

Likewise a small state, by submission to 
one that is greater, may secure its alliance. 


Thus the one gains adherence, and the 
other obtains favours. 

Although the great state desires to annex 
and to nourish others, yet the small state 
desires to be allied to and serve the greater. 

Thus both will be satisfied, if only the 
greater will condescend. 

The teachings of the Taoists have been characterised as im- 
practicable and effete. It has been affirmed that the followers 
of Laotze would, if they could, "convert the fertile soil into 
a barren wilderness, and the brightness of day into nocturnal 
obscurity." It is difficult to trace any signs of confusion or 
obscurity in the policy here advocated by Laotze. It is a very 
clear statement of the relations which should exist between 
a protectorate power and its allied states. But what do we 
see in China to-day? A fertile soil converted into a field 
of carnage — by interference ; an ancient depository of most 
valuable records converted into temporary barracks — through 
ambition ; the temples ransacked and given over to money- 
changers — through greed of gain ; and the " light of day turned 
into nocturnal obscurity" — through the blindness of bigotry. 
So jih yiu shih chi ki in very deed ! And the effects of that 
black eclipse will darken the nations for centuries to come. 
China did not seek missionary interference, and those who go 
forth with the gospel in one hand should rightly take their lives 
in the other. The evangel of Christ (see Mark vi., Luke ix., 
and John xv.) does not warrant an appeal to State protection. 
Rather does it advocate the doctrine of non-interference, and 
that the unsuccessful missionary should " shake off the dust of 


his feet as a testimony against them" when leaving a people 
to the effects of their own faith. 

Condescension and forbearance, submissiveness and quiet- 
ness, are held to be of great influence in every department of 
life, not excepting the home. From the time that women, 
under the influence of Western civilisation, began to assert their 
" rights," they abandoned the many privileges of their sex and 
forfeited their claim to the special protection of their allergens. 
As a natural consequence women have become more obtrusive 
and men less chivalrous. Thousands of women crowd our 
city streets to-day, usurping the place of the legitimate bread- 
winner and throwing hundreds of men out of employment. 
Yet they are surprised when they are not accorded the accus- 
tomed privileges of their sex, and yet further amazed when 
men, finding them undomesticated and wanting in tenderness, 
simplicity and reserve, do not approach them with serious 
attentions. This influx of feminine virility has disorganised the 
labour market, impoverished the home, and will in time, if the 
teachings of Laotze be true, corrupt and demoralise the state. 
Virtue is not attained by attempting the work of others. It is 
due to keeping to one's proper place and by devotion to one's 
proper work in the world. 



Tao is the secret guardian of all things. 

It enriches the good man and forefends the 

Its counsel is always in season ; its benevo- 
lence is always in demand. 


Even those who are not good it does not 

Therefore, when the Emperor takes his 
throne and appoints his nobles, he who comes 
before him bearing the insignia of a prince 
and escorted by a moimted retinue is not to 
be compared with one who humbly presents 
this Tao. 

For why did the ancients hold it in such 
esteem ? 

Was it not because it could be had without 
much seeking, and because by means of it 
man might escape from sin ? 

For this it was esteemed the greatest thing 
in the world 1 

It has been already said that Tao is no respecter of persons 
(see Chapter V.). In this sense the word Tao is used to 
designate the Supreme Being rather than, as in some other 
passages, the doctrine concerning the Deity. Tao regards 
all persons as vessels fit for service. In this chapter it is shown 
that the Tao cherishes all things and persons without distinc- 
tion. As the source of all intelligence its counsel is always in 
season ; as the source of all good its benevolence is always 
in demand ; and because it is inexhaustible it is never known 
to fail. The good man is thereby enabled to better his con- 
dition, and the evil man is prevented from a worse state. 
Therefore everyone, after his own nature, relies upon the 


supreme source, and consciously or unconsciously puts his 
faith therein. 

" Thou art the cause supreme of life, 
The hidden good in every ill, 
Which even they who live in strife 
Do serve with an unconscious will. 
Thou art the salve of hearts that bleed ; 
The grave of every ruined creed ! " 

Trans, from La Nature. 

Therefore one may rely on the favour of a king, and be dis- 
appointed ; on the power of wealth, and it will fail ; on the 
strength of his arm, and it will forsake him ; on the fidelity 
of friends, and it will prove abortive. But if he relies on the 
Infinite Love he will never be forsaken. Hence, the man who 
humbly presents this doctrine of Original Simplicity to an 
Emperor, before he has had time to complicate the affairs of 
State, is more worthy to be received than a prince and his 

Incidentally Laotze mentions that this doctrine of the Tao 
was the faith of the Ancients. There are good grounds for 
believing that Laotze had access to the ancient records, and 
probably had given much study to the " Grand Plan," in which 
is detailed the Eightfold Path of right government, contained 
m the famous Book of the Lo River. This book embodied all 
the essentials of the doctrine of the Tao, and was an heirloom 
of the days of Fuh-hi. In the days of the great floods, B.C. 
2348, it was lost, and history records that it was afterwards 
found by Ta Yu in the bed of the Lo River during the course 
of his great survey.' Fuh-hi, Hwang -ti, Chuen-hia, Yaou, 
Shun, and Ta-yu were those of the patriarchal dynasty who 
ruled China between the thirtieth and twenty-third centuries 
B.C., and were renowned and revered for their great wisdom 
and sanctity and the simplicity and purity of their lives. No 
doubt it is to records of these sages that Laotze would refer, 

' See the author's translation of the Shu-kins *n<l Commentary, 




Acting without design, occupying oneself 
without making a business of it, finding the 
great in what is small, and the many in the 
few, repaying injury with kindness, effecting 
difficult things while they are easy, and 
managing great things in their beginnings, 
is the method of Tao. 

All difficult things have their origin in that 
which is easy, and great things in that which 
is small. 

Therefore the wise man can accomplish 
great things without even attempting them. 

He who hghtly assents wiU seldom keep his 

He who accounts all things easy will have 
many difficulties. 

Therefore the Sage takes great account of 
small things, and so never has any difficulty. 


By the expression, "acting without design," we do not 
understand that the action is unintentional, apathetic, and 
without purpose, but that it is without selfish motive and with- 
out reference to the personal advantage of action. Action, 
without motive of some sort, would be simply automatism, 
and devoid of rationality, direction, and determinism. As the 
Italians say : Come si pu6 operare chi non sa che cosa si 
voglia? (How shall one act who does not know what he 
wants?) A motive of some sort must underlie and ensoul 
every action, for what is automatic and habitual was at one 
time voluntary and purposive. The mere choice of good and 
evil in motive is a purposive action, having regard to the 
welfare of others or of oneself. Selfishness is the worse evil, 
in that it has no thought of others, and therefore makes no 
choice of action. He who chooses that which is good is not 
concerned with expediency, and yet always accomplishes that 
which is most expedient. 

To see all things as comprehended in the One is what is 
called " finding the many in the few," for there cannot be mqre 
than the All or less than the One. To see God in all things 
is to "find the Great in what is small." The study of the 
universe will reveal to us what an inconsiderable creature is 
man. The study of Man will show us what a God he may 
become ! But to study the One in all is better than to study 
the many in the One, for the knowledge of differences will only 
lead to mental dissipation, while the knowledge of identities 
will bring the mind to rest. 

Repaying good with good and evil with evil is mere com- 
merce ; but to repay evil with good is princely, if not divine. 
To give in equal measure shows competence, to give in 
greater measure shows affluence. The world esteems wealth 
and despises poverty. 

"To effect difficult things while they are easy," one must 
take them in their beginnings. The government of the kingdom 
is a difficult matter, but if the king governs the Chief Subject, 
the kingdom may be said to govern itself. The Sage therefore 


accomplishes everything without attempting it, for he has no 
hope that is not already included in the promise of life, 
no ambition which is not in harmony with the revealed Will 
of Heaven, and therefore he does nothing without seeing the 
end from the beginning. That is why he claims no merit, but 
ascribes all results to their Supreme Source. "Great battles 
are won before they are actually fought," says Sir John Lubbock. 
" To control our passions we must govern our habits and keep 
watch over ourselves in the small details of everyday life." This 
is what is meant by "managing great things in their beginnings." 



What is still is easily held. 
What is expected is easily provided for. 
What is brittle is easily broken. 
What is small is soon dispersed. 
Transact your business before it takes shape. 
Regulate things before confusion begras. 

The tree which fills the arms grew from a 
tender shoot. 

The castle of nine storeys was raised on a 
heap of earth. 

The journey of a thousand miles begins 
with one step. 


Whoever designs only destroys. 

Whoever grasps, loses. 

The Sage does not thus act, therefore he 
does no harm. 

He does not grasp, and therefore he never 

But the common people, in their under- 
takings, fail on the eve of success. 

If they were as prudent at the end as they 
are at the beginning, there would be no such 

Therefore the Sage is only ambitious of 
what others despise, and sets no value on 
things difficult to obtain. 

He acquires no common learning, but re- 
turns to that which the people have passed by. 

Thus he aims at simple development in aU 
things, and acts without design. 

Our author here continues the subject of the preceding 
chapter. It has already been stated that the book of Tao-teh, 
as delivered by Laotze, was a continuous writing without 
divisions and capitation. These have been effected by the 
commentators, probably in the second century B.C. That 
Laotze wrote spontaneously, and "as the spirit moved him," 


without design or arrangement, is obvious throughout the 
book, and we needs must follow him. Modern literary critics 
will hardly appreciate this form, but they cannot, on that 
account, shut their eyes to its substance. 

Having shown the importance of carefulness in beginning 
things, the Sage now shows that equal care is needed in con- 
tinuing and finishing. As a picker-up of unconsidered trifles, 
our author reverts, as wise men will, to that which others have 
passed by. He goes back to the ancient doctrine which had 
been obliterated, and was, at his day, further threatened with 
the invasion of a new philosophy. He goes back to Original 
Simplicity, to natural development, while the world goes 
forward to new complexities, and from one confusion of thought 
to another. 

On the stone which the builders rejected our philosopher 
takes his seat, and at this day that stone is in request. Laotze 
would have us rightly understand the Art of Living. He aims 
at the natural development and the orderly unfoldment of 
inherent powers. Man, as we know him, is a complex creature, 
a thing of admiration or of contempt, a vessel made to holy 
uses, yet largely filled with corruption. That dog yonder is 
nearer to Nature than he to God. It wanders back and forth, 
but manages to keep near to the cause of its welfare ; while its 
master, who is neither wholly natural nor wholly godly, is hke 
a stray sheep in the desert, a fish out of water, or an owl in the 
sunlight. Yet is he rightly persuaded that the animal has 
much regard for him. It answers to his eall, and prefers his 
hand to that of another. 

Thus we see that Nature is wise without discernment ; and 
further, that as between Nature and God, that which leans 
towards God has the advantage, for man, having left Nature, 
inclines towards God. And in this is he rendered superior to 
the animal who is wholly natural. Every child has two parents, 
and in the choice between them it is well to keep close to one 
or the other, and so not to get lost. 




The ancients who practised the Tao did not 
make use of it to render the people brilliant, 
but to make them simple and natural. 

The difficulty in governing the people is 
through overmuch pohcy. 

He who tries to govern the kingdom by 
policy is only a scourge to it ; while he who 
governs without it is a blessing. 

To know these twa things is the perfect 
knowledge of government, and to keep them 
continually in view is called the virtue of 

Deep and wide is this simple virtue ; and 
though opposed to other methods it can bring 
about a perfect order. 

The political leader-writer in search of a subject would do 
well to consider this chapter, and whether he be " brilliant," or 
only " simple and natural," I am persuaded that he would make 
good use of it. For myself, being neither one nor the other, 


I scarce know how to look at it. But it is observable that a 
brief policy makes a good budget, and an extensive policy is 
productive of a bad one. When a man minds his own business 
and concentrates his energies, he is on the way to securing his 
fortunes ; while those who conduct their affairs in other men's 
houses are never very successful in their own. The bankrupt 
tradesman is forced to retire to the country for the sake of his 
health. A defeated Government also goes to the country. 
And because they do this when things are on the wane, they 
are said to follow " the dark path." A business man is always 
ruined by his calculations, and a Government by its policy ; 
while the man who makes no calculations and pursues no 
policy is never defeated. It is also observed that when the 
Government is "in the country" affairs appear to govern 
themselves. We eat and sleep and pay our rates and taxes, 
as if the Government were in full swing and every office filled. 
For at such times the people take the government upon them- 
selves, and there is no question of their good intentions. 

But the godfathers appear with a new bantling, and some are 
for calling it Peter and others Paul. So the matter is put to 
the vote, and the people go about in swelling pride, every 
one of them an emperor with a hundred chariots to choose 
from if only he will honour them with the dust of his feet I 
It is a great day for the people when it comes to giving a name 
to a thing ! At last, however, it is decided that the choice of 
the nation is in favour of Peter, and the godfathers take leave 
of the people in the country and go up to the Temple of 
Stephen, where, amid great rejoicing and much ceremony, 
the new-born child is christened. When, after a lapse of time 
it is found that the child is neither a Peter nor a Paul, but an 
Agnes or a Jezebel, the godfathers go down to the country 
again to confer with the people, and affairs are left to govern 
themselves once more. 




That by which the great rivers and seas 
receive the tribute of all the streams, is the 
fact of their being lowly ; that is the cause 
of their superiority. 

Thus the Sage, wishing to govern the 
people, speaks of himself as beneath them ; 
and wishing to lead them, places himself 
behind them. 

So, while he is yet above them, they do 
not feel his weight ; and being before them, 
he yet causes no obstruction. 

Therefore aU men exalt him with acclama- 
tions, and none is offended. 

And because he does not strive, no man 
is his enemy. 

If the authenticity of this book were not beyond question, 
one would be justified in supposing it to be of Christian 
tradition, so literally does it convey, in many passages, the 
true teaching of the Gospels. On the virtue of Humility 
Laotze is insistent ; and by " virtue " he conveys nothing qi 
merit, but merely actual utility. The virtuous is the useful. 


" He who would be greatest among you, the same must be 
servant of all," are words familiar to every Christian, ^^he 
virtue of Humility is its usefulness ; whereby the people are 
ruled without oppression, and led forth without obstruction. 
The virtue of lowliness is everywhere evident, and here receives 
illustration. As things are esteemed on account of their rarity, 
so men of reclusive nature have always the greatest welcome. 
What is ponderable and of much gravity seeks the lowest 
place, where, in obscurity, it sustains all else above it and 
continues in safety. The mountains are lofty, but they are 
barren where they are highest. The valleys are lowly, but 
fruitful, and well watered where they are lowest. The people 
throng to the valleys and leave the mountain -tops alone. 
Where the paths are difficult and food is scarce even a great 
man may find no following ; and the people prefer the fertile 
valleys where the paths are smooth, labour light, and food 
plentiful. On the pinnacle of the mountain there is standing 
room for one man. In the widespreading valleys and plains 
there is room for all to lie down and rest. Therefore the wise 
and virtuous, when seeking obscurity, betake themselves to the 
valleys, where they can lose themselves among the people. 

To influence without compelling, to persuade without arguing, 
and to regulate without retarding the people, is good govern- 
ment. It is also the way of Heaven. 




All the world avows that while my Taoism 
is great, it is yet incompetent ! 

It is its greatness which makes it appear 

If it were like others, it would long ago 
have been recognised as incompetent. 

But I hold fast to three precious things, 
which also I cherish. 

The first is gentleness. 

The second is economy. 

The third is humUity. 

With such gentleness I can be daring. 

With such economy I can be generous. 

With such humility I can be great in service, 
as a vessel of honour. 

But in these days men forsake gentleness 
and become only obtrusive. 


They abandon economy and become only 

They rehnquish humility and strive for 
precedence, and thus for death. 

Gentleness is ever victorious in attack and 
secure in defence. 

Therefore when Heaven would preserve a 
man it enfolds him with gentleness. 

The doctrine of Tao, which appears to be so incompetent, 
Laotze shows to be, after all, the most practical. For when 
men have only succeeded by their obtrusiveness in creating 
strife and all manner of complications, gentleness is found to 
be the only salve and the only means of extricating those who 
are involved. When excess has emptied the coffers and ex- 
hausted the larder, it is found that economy has enough of good 
fare to go round. When ambition has reached its height, those 
who are beneath can withdraw their support ! But humihty 
sustains all positions with equal ease, and itself is safe from 
falling. The highest place is the most difficult to maintain, 
and the lowest is most difficult to undermine. Heaven sustains 
and directs things from beneath, as a plant is nourished from 
its root, while virtually ruling them from above. 




The good commander is not imperious. 

The good fighter is not wrathful. 

The greatest conqueror does not wage war. 

The best master governs by condescension. 

This is the virtue of not contending. 

This is the virtue of persuasion. 

This is the imitation of Heaven, and this 
was the highest aim of the ancients. 

Heaven rules the universe without apparent effort. All 
things appear to progress of their own accord, but Heaven 
holds them in check by keeping a hold upon their root-natures, 
and so governs them from and through themselves. To fight 
without killing, to command without impelling, and to conquer 
without contending, is only possible to those who love their 
fellow-creatures ; and such was the ambition of the virtuous 
ancients. Gentleness, forbearance, and humility are far away 
from the principles that govern modern conditions of life. 

"Gentleness, virtue, wisdom, and endurance : 
These are the seals of that most firm assurance 
Which bar the pit over Destruction's strength !" 


sang the prophetic poet who companioned the Spirit of SoU- 
tude. But look ! it is but three hundred years since the 
Pilgrim Fathers went out, gospel in hand, to colonise America 
— men of simple life, of stout hearts, and of great faith. But 
he who built the first log cabin and traded with the Indian 
chief on the borders of the settlement did not dream a modern 
Chicago, nor conceive a possible city of New York. 

It is difficult to determine the particular period of those men 
to whom Laotze refers to as " the Ancients," but it is safe to 
assume that he is speaking of the Chinese patriarchs, prior to 
the establishment of the Hia dynasty, concerning whom there 
is some fragmentary record. The earliest rulers of China were 
wont to speak of their " divine ancestors," and it is universally 
received that there was a time in the history of man when he 
was nearer in life to all that is virtuous and holy than now. 
The expression in the Hebrew Genesis, "The sons of God 
walked with the daughters of men," would seem to infer that 
the evolution of the natural man had attained a point where it 
was met by the involution of the spiritual ; and St. Paul says, 
" First was that which was natural, and afterwards that which 
was spiritual." And prior to this quickening of the natural by 
the incoming of the spiritual, there were those of " the order 
of Melchizedek," who, like Seth and Enoch, "walked with 
God." The divine origin of mankind is of universal belief, 
and every great religious system of thought is based on this 
principle. But during the ascendency of the Darwinian system 
it was a common but fallacious conceit of some minds to 
advocate the belief that man was only " a superior monkey." 
Latterly, however, there has been a revolt in favour of tha 
original concept of the divine ancestry, with this curious 
addendum, that the monkey is only " a degenerate man " I 
As far as we are able to trace, it would appear that at first 
the earth was peopled by a race of giants, who represented 
the apotheosis of physical evolution in the animal man. "There 
were giants in the earth in those days." But later, and at the 
point where it is presumed that physical evolution was met by 


spiritual involution, a kind of introversion took place. Since 
then the whole trend of human development has been towards 
the specialisation of faculty, the evolution of the unit from the 
mass, and the esrtablishing of the ascendency of mind over 
matter. I conceive that there is a great and deep mystery 
attaching to this tradition of the "divine ancestor" of the 
human race, and the Hebraic concept of "Adam," equally 
with that of the Chinese Fuh-hi and the Neu-wo, veils a great 
truth which remains for us to discover. 



A GKEAT warrior has said, "I dare not be 
the host, I would rather be the guest ; I dare 
not advance an inch, I would rather retire a 

Now this I caU fihng in without marshalling 
the ranks ; baring the arms without preparing 
to fight ; grasping the sword without un- 
sheathing it ; and advancing upon the enemy 
without coming into conflict. 

There is nothing so unfortunate as entering 
lightly into battle. 

For by so doing we are in danger of losing 
that which is most precious. 


Thus it happens that when opposing forces 
meet in battle, he who feels the pity of it 
assuredly conquers. 

It is not certainly known to whom Laotze refers as the 
" great warrior." Among the historical warrior kings of China 
there was Tai T'ang and Wu-wang, both of whom showed 
great forbearance towards the enemies of their country, and 
were reluctant to enter into battle, but the exact quotation is 
not to be found in the historical classic. 

The expression, " I dare not be the host," means that he 
shrinks from giving a challenge. The terms "host" and 
" guest " were given to the combatants in a duel or wrestling 
match. The host was he who gave the challenge, and the 
guest he who accepted it. The host would say, " Come on ! 
I will give you good fare ! " To which invitation the guest 
would reply, " I have a good appetite ! " They would then 
fall to. "Beware of entrance to a quarrel," was the sage 
advice of Polonius to Laertes in the play of Hamlet. " Agree 
with thine adversary whilst thou art in the way with him," said 
the Christ. 

By "that which is most precious" Laotze probably means 
life itself. Everything else appears subsidiary when once the 
battle has beagj, though previously it may have seemed that 
honour, or-^ossession, a throne to be saved or gained, was of 
greater value, since the combatants were willing to risk their 
lives for it. Moreover, it is always possible that a war may 
outlast the cause of it ; and it is doubtful whether, from the 
first blow to the last, the bone of contention is ever held in 
view by any but non-combatants. 

" He who feels the pity of it assuredly conquers," says Laotze. 
It is scarcely probable that he can mean that the feeling of 
pity is the cause of conquest, and the paraphrase, " He who 
conquers feels the pity of it," will perhaps convey the right 


idea, the survivor in a combat being he who feels the pity 
of it all. But it is possible that Laotze had a subtle purpose 
in thus stating the case. It appears likely that he may have 
wished to say : He who feels the pity of entering into a 
combat, and shedding the blood of a fellow-creature, assuredly 
conquers by avoiding it. And this rendering is not altogether 
precluded by the phrase, "When opposing powers meet in 
battle," since what is designed by the meeting need not come 
to pass. This is in line with the former saying of Laotze, 
" The greatest conqueror does not wage war." He conquers 
himself, his inordinate ambitions, and his passions, thus gain- 
ing the greatest of all victories without hurt to others. It is 
possible to conquer the world with love. 



Easy are my words to know, and also to 

Yet none is able to understand nor yet to 
practise them. 

For there is a remote origin for my words, 
and a supreme law for my actions. 

Not knowing these, men cannot know me. 

Those who know me are few, and by them 
I am esteemed. 

For the wise man is outwardly poor, but he 
carries his jewel in his bosom. 


In the twentieth chapter the philosopher compares himself 
to a waif, a little child without a home, one estranged from the 
people. He now indicates wherein that estrangement lies. 

"There is a remote origin for my words" would seem to 
mean that they are of very ancient tradition, and that his 
teaching was that of the wise men of old, " who spake as they 
were moved by the Holy Spirit," and in such case we may 
claim for the teachings of Laotze something of the sanctity 
of inspired utterance. But he is speaking to a later generation, 
which does not understand nor is able to practise his teachings. 

The same is said of the generation to which the Holy 
Nazarene appealed : " Eyes have they, and see not : ears have 
they, and hear not ; neither understand they in their hearts." 
And again : " Seeing they will not perceive, and hearing they 
will not understand." The prophet Isaiah likewise complained 
in the voice of the Spirit of Truth : " I was found of them that 
sought me not, and made manifest to them that enquired not 
concerning me." And of Israel he said : "All day long have 
I stretched out my hands to a perverse and hostile generation !" 

But the Old Philosopher takes comfort in the fact that by the 
few who understand him he is greatly esteemed. 

" There is a supreme law for my actions," he says ; and from 
what we have already seen of his teachings, it is certain that 
he refers to the law of love. 

It is perhaps better to regard the whole chapter as written 
in an impersonal sense and as referring rather to the teachings 
themselves than he who deUvers them. Then it is by no means 
difficult to understand that the law of Love, which is the law 
of self-sacrifice, is as easy to know as it is hard to practise. 
And because the world is inherently selfish, the doctrine of the 
Tao cannot largely appeal to it ; but to the few who are capable 
of holding and using it there is nothing more estimable. 

Further, by the expression " outwardly poor " we see that the 
doctrine of the Tao offers no attractions to the pharasaical lover 
of the pomp and circumstance of ritualism, for it is a doctrine 
which, when received, is hidden away in the heart. Thus while 


it is at all points in harmony with the gospel teaching, the 
promulgation of this doctrine would be as strongly resisted at 
this day by the upholders of Ecclesiasticism as was the teach- 
ing of the Buddha by the Brahmins, or that of the Christ by 
the Pharisees and Scribes, 



To know one's ignorance is the best part of 

To be ignorant of such knowledge is a 

If one only regards it as a disease, he will 
soon be cured of it. 

The wise man is exempt from this disease. 

He knows it for what it is, and so is free 
from it. 

Knowledge as a mere accretion of detail is never referred to 
by our author with any affection or esteem. He here shows 
that the knowledge of our ignorance is the essential part of 
true knowledge. " Dispense with your learning and save your- 
self anxiety," he says in Chapter XX. The discernment of 
differences will not help us to distinguish between what is 
essentially good or evil, for there is only one source of good, 
and what is not of that " cometh of evil." To know our own 


ignorance is the end of all knowledge, to know the source of 
knowledge is the beginning of wisdom ; but to be ignorant of 
these things is called "chasing the shadows." The uncon- 
sciousness of our ignorance renders all our learning so much 
folly. We give a name to a thing, or a meaning to a word, 
and because we can recognise them again, or recall a host of 
these things to our memories, we are esteemed learned. 

But if we could know the thing in itself, or the subject of 
the word, we might rightly be esteemed wise. If we call the 
oak a sycamore, we may be corrected, and if we distinguish 
between them, we have corrected ourselves ; but knowing the 
virtue of either the oak or the sycamore, we may dispense 
with the names of them, and call them what we will. So that 
if one would be learned, let him study the names of things, 
and be apt at affixing labels and the making of catalogues. 
But if he would be wise, let him study the natures of things 
and their uses, and chief among things, himself ; for all things 
are related to him through his own nature, and not otherwise. 
And thus growing wise, man may come to see God in all 
things, and all things in God. So that by whatever name we 
call the Supreme Being is a matter of small consequence, so 
that the Virtue of that Being is found in ourselves. 

Regarding this discernment of the essential virtue of things, 
Tennyson has this exquisite little verse — 

" Flower in the crannied wall, 
I pluck you from the crannies ; 
And I hold you in my hand, 
Little flower ; but if I could understand 
What you are, root and all, and all in all, 
I should understand what God and Man is 1" 




When men do not have a right fear of 
present dangers, they run into extremes of 

Let them beware of enlarging the house, 
being weary of present conditions. 

If they do not despise it, no such weariness 
will arise. 

This is why the Sage, while possessed of 
self-knowledge, does not parade himself 

He loves, but does not value himself highly. 

Thus he puts away pride, and is content. 

Laotze indicates that there is nothing wrong in self-regard 
and the care of the person. The wrong consists in ostentation 
and reckless exposure. To keep out of danger one must have 
a right fear of present dangers, for by a bad beginning one is 
only retarded ; but by running to extremes he makes a bad 
finish, which is beyond remedy. Weariness of hfe and dis- 
content is a condition of the mind induced by circumstances. 
It is easier to change our condition of mind than to change our 
circumstances, for the one is wholly within our own control, 
while the other is largely subject to the will of others. Let the 


discontented man but compare his lot with that of many others, 
or consider for a moment what a very little, after all, he has 
actually contributed to the sum of human happiness or to the 
regulation of things as they are. The free-will and liberty of 
man consists, mainly, in his mental view-point and attitude 
towards things as he finds them, and very little in the making 
of his own environment and conditions of life. Self-knowledge 
is the chief means of self-adjustment to one's surroundings, and 
it is the perennial source of contentment ; for the knowledge 
of self is the knowledge of all else that is related to the self, 
and by self-control, which results from self-knowledge, we 
may regain some of our lost liberty and contentment. Where 
we find it impossible to advance an inch, we may always retire 
a foot. 



He whose coxirage is expressed in daring will 
soon meet death. 

He whose courage is shown in self-restraint 
will be preserved. 

There are, then, two kinds of courage ; the 
one is injurious and the other of advantage. 

But who is to say why one of them should 
incur the judgment of Heaven ? 

That is why the Sage finds it difficult to act. 



The celestial Tao does not strive, and yet 
overcomes everything. 

It does not speak, yet it is skilful in repl5dng. 

It does not call, yet things come to it. readily. 

It is quiet in its methods, yet its plans are 
thoroughly effective. 

The net of Heaven has large meshes, and 
yet nothing escapes it I 

The courage of daring is injurious, and the courage of pru- 
dence is of advantage. This is worth knowing. In common 
experience it is easy enough to act, but very difficult to restrain 
oneself. The Spirit of the Age, which Shelley calls Demogorgon, 
is one of hideous self-inflation, ambition, rivalry, simulation, 
and patchwork. If one cannot be drawn into the field of 
competition, he is driven into it. All the world over, individual 
responsibility and self<ontrol are being thrown over to dele- 
gates, so that men may rush into the field to fight for wealth 
and position. Men are jiaid to do the people's thinking for 
them, and to serve up the husks of badly digested records and 
statistics. Causes are neglected, and effects are regarded as 
essential ; principles are of small account, while the great 
thing is to be on the right side of the market. Under such 
conditions a premium is set on the courage of daring, while the 
courage of self-restraint is regarded as lack of enterprise. 

Yet, as Laotze says : " Who can tell why one should incur 
the judgment of Heaven?" But he shortly gives the answer: 
" The celestial Tao does not strive, yet it overcomes everything. 
... It is quiet in its methods, yet its plans are thoroughly 
effective. . . ." And what is not Tao soon comes to an end. 


While giving to man a wonderful range of freedom, a play- 
space that is enjoyed by no other creature, Heaven has in- 
volved him in a network of laws from which he cannot escape. 
A fool and his folly soon comes to an end, and the sooner we 
resign ourselves to the over-arching law of Love, the expressed 
Will of Heaven, the sooner we shall come into our freedom. 
For as nothing escapes the net of Heaven, it is better to 
resign oneself and be content with one's condition, and so 
avoid rushing at the net, which, for aught we know, is spread 
about us for our own preservation. 



When the people do not fear death, of 

what use is it to overawe them with it as a 

penalty ? 

And if they were always held in fear of 

death, and I could lay my hand upon all 

evil doers and slay them, would I dare to 

do it? 

There is always the Great Executioner I 
For one to usurp that office is like a novice 

cutting out the work of a great architect. 

Such an one rarely fails to cut his own 
hands ! 


Travellers in the East have frequently remarked upon the 
contempt in which the fear of death is held by Oriental nations, 
and especially by the Chinese. It would, perhaps, be nearer 
the truth to say that they have an indifference to life, rather 
than a contempt of death ; and the reason for this is not far to 
seek. Generations of indigence and misery, consequent upon 
tyranny and oppression, and the absence of any moral restraint, 
has made life a burden to millions, so that even suicide appears 
to them the right thing under certain unusually distressful con- 
ditions. And certainly the sudden and brief pang of death is 
not to be compared with the pain of living the life endured by 
thousands to-day. So that it is not to be wondered at that 
murderous instincts are awakened in the more robust and 
suicidal tendencies in the more sensitive of the sufferers. The 
sudden breaking down of the reservoirs of life — what is it but 
a premature old age? It would come about in the natural 
course of things. 

The wrong to humanity is apparently inconsiderable. What 
is it to the world that it should be relieved of the senile, the 
incurably diseased, the indigent, and miserable, and all those 
who prefer the uncertainties of death to the ever-present fact 
of irremediable suffering? The man destroyed, Nature will 
build up another in his place. What then ? 

Laotze teaches a doctrine of conservatism. The wrong, he 
would say, is in usurping the right to destroy that which man 
himself cannot rebuild. " My body," he says, " is not my own. 
It is the delegated exuvias of God." This, again, is the reason 
why the Sage finds it difficult to act, and because of his proper 
regard for life he does not look on death as a trivial thing. 
He looks upon death as an enemy to that part of him which is 
subject to death. He has respect for his enemies, but seeks to 
avoid them and so to conquer them. 

Capital punishment is distasteful to the higher sentiments of 
the educated mind. Two wrongs do not make a right. The 
fear of death is no deterrent to the lawless, who are naturally 
men of daring ; and as death is sure to come to all, and soonest 


to men of reckless nature, of what use is this usurpation of what 
is strictly a divine prerogative, the taking away of human life ? 
" Vengeance is mine ; I will repay, saith the Lord." For if a 
man fall into the hands of the law, he shall presently be free ; 
but if he fall into the hands of God, who shall deliver him but 
God Himself? And His ways are not our ways. 

But Laotze points a greater danger, that of cutting one's 
hands in the work of execution. This is worth considering. 

Now, who is responsible for the criminal creation — the man 
who follows his own brute nature, or the civilisations of the 
past which have evolved the criminal product and so have 
rendered crime a consequence ? Laotze would say that it rests 
with civilised or corrupted methods of government. He would 
show that the body corporate of humanity is affected by an 
interdependence of action from root to stem, from stem to 
branch, from branch to twig, and leaf, and flower, and fruit. 
Members of a single constitution, we are all governed by the 
same laws ; not directly, perhaps, but successively according 
to dependency and relationship. And so, as regards this 
"lopping of the branches," this cutting off of the criminal 
product, is it not equivalent to cutting one's own hand ? And 
if, hurting his hand, a man should cut it off, would that be 
so well for him as nursing it back to health and strength ? 

Criminal law must always form a part of civil government ; 
but it should be corrective and not punitive. At all events we 
should give a true accent to every mandate ; and in that which 
says : " Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood 
be shed," the first word is as important as the rest. If it were 
regarded as religiously as the middle and the end, man would 
hesitate to begin the work of extermination. 




The people suffer from famine on account of 
the heavy taxation put upon them. 

This is the cause of their need. 

The people are difficult to govern because 
of the overbearing of their superiors. 

This is the cause of their trouble. 
The people make Ught of dying because of 
the great hardships of trying to live. 

This is the reason of their indifference to 

Therefore to keep living in obscurity is 
better than making overmuch of it. 

Heavy taxation may not be regarded as the cause of bad 
crops, but it makes those crops difficult to be got at by the 
people ; and taxes are great in proportion as the administration 
becomes complex and ambitious. Self-government consists, 
largely, in foregoing our ambitions, in being content, and in 
refraining from conflict with others. It is a great work, but 
much easier than it is made out to be ; and the more of it that 
each one of us can take in hand, the better for the country. It 
is, moreover, considerably cheaper than governing by delegates. 


It is also more effective, for when people govern themselves 
they never complain of the rigour of the law. Hence in self- 
government there is a greater feeling of freedom vi'ith a greater 
amount of self-restraint. 

Incidentally Laotze ansvvrers our question as to the cause of 
indifference to death, which was raised in the preceding com- 
mentary. He shows that it is really on account of the difficulty 
of living. Yet, as he elsewhere very pleasantly remarks, " the 
people prefer the complex ways." This is indeed true. The 
day was young in the West when Laotze was writing these 
words. Yet look around and see how true they are of all 
times and nations ! The history of England was in the germ 
when China was producing its Sages. It was only a seedling 
when the Gospel of SimpHcity was first written and taught. 
To-day it is such a network of complexity that each year's 
almanac is a history of itself. The only danger that threatens 
England is her comparative greatness. The greatness of sim- 
plicity is one thing, the complexity of greatness is another. 

The real strength of a constitution is not to be rightly 
measured by the population of the country or the extent of its 
possessions and dependencies, but by the facility of living 
enjoyed by its units. Now as regards Great Britain and 
Ireland, the population in 1862 was over twenty-nine millions, 
the poor rate 8s. ^d. per capitum, and the income tax j\d. in 
the £. At the present time, with a population of forty-one 
millions, the poor rate is over 14^., and the income tax is is. in 
the £. The number of paupers has increased pari passu with 
the population, while taxation for their relief has increased /ro 
rata more than 2s. per head of the population ! For every £1 
that is levied for the relief of the poor as poor rate, it costs loj. 
for purposes of administration, the actual relief to the poor per 
£1 of the rate being only los. Such being the results of 
organised charity, of measuring goodwill by the pint and 
pound, one may be excused for preferring old-fashioned 
methods of spontaneous giving of alms, whereby benevolence 
could secure a friend and gratitude a protector. 




Man at his birth is supple and tender, but in 
death he is rigid and strong. 

It is the same with everything. 

Trees and plants in their early growth are 
pliant and soft, but at the end they are 
withered and tough. 

Thus rigidity and strength are concomitants 
of death, but softness and gentleness are 
companions of Hfe. 

Therefore the warrior who relies on his 
strength cannot conquer death, whUe the 
powerful tree becomes a mere timber support. 

For the place of the strong and the firm is 
below, while that of the gentle and yielding 
is above. 

Laotze pursues the old theme of the virtue of gentleness by 
pointing the antithesis of the danger of strength. Swedenborg's 
idea of immortality, that it is a condition of " forever growing 
young," is supported by our author, who shows that it is a 
state of continual and perfect recuperation. From a variety 


of sustaining sources the body continues to grow in bulk and 
strength, its powers are awakened, and the passage from child- 
hood to youth and from youth to adolescence is one of steady 
increase of vital power. Then there comes a change. The 
recuperative power gradually declines, the faculties become 
obscured, the functions fail, and in course of time the body 
falls into senility and decay. 

There is therefore a point, varying with the individual, at 
which the recuperative power reaches its climax and begins 
to wane. When pathology can determine this organic crisis 
and prescribe a remedy, something may be done to lengthen 
human life — if that is an end desired, apart from the power 
to render it worthier the living. That the medicine is often 
worse than the disease, only those know who shrink from death 
as the only remedy as yet discovered for the disease of living. 

But Laotze here defines the cause of decay and death, and 
prescribes a remedy. The cause of death, he says, is non- 
adaptability of the individual to the circumstance of life : the 
effort to remain fixed while everything else changes, the folly 
of exerting one's strength. When a man loses his hold upon 
simple things, such as Truth, little children, and the Great Tao, 
he is beginning to get old. 

With a small stomach and a big chest, one may live a long 
time. With great strength and small occasion to display it, 
one may reach years that are quite exceptional. But with 
a gentle heart and much adaptability, a man may wear out 
successive generations. 




Like the bending of an archer's bow is the 
Tao of Heaven 1 

It brings down that which is high, and 
raises up that which is depressed. 

It takes away where there is excess, and 
gives where there is deficiency. 

The Tao of Heaven makes all things equal. 

This Tao is not of man. 

Man takes from the needy to add to his 
own excess. 

Who is he that, having a superabundance, 
can bring it to the service of the world ? 

Only he who has the Tao. 

This is why the wise man acts without 
expectation of reward, and completes his task 
without claiming merit. 

For thus he hides his wealth. 


The use of the word Too in this connection is to define the 
operation of celestial laws in human life. The simile used 
is that of the old cross-bow, whose bending is "like the Tao 
of Heaven" in its operations. The Tao is a great leveller 
of things, taking away from excess and giving to deficiency. 
Thus the " Song of the Virgin" :— 

" He hath put down the mighty from their seat. 
And hath exalted the humble and meek. 
He hath filled the hungry with good things, 
And the rich He hath sent empty away ! " 

" This Tao is not of man," or " this is not the way of man,'' 
says Laotze. The greed of gain, the lust of power, the am- 
bition of fame, are the ruling passions of the civilised world. 
But the teaching of the Old Philosopher is not less true because 
it is unpopular. All virtue is in use, says Laotze. So much as 
a man can use, so much only can he bring to human service. 
Whatever is in excess of his power to use is so much withheld 
from the service of man. Too much learning is, for this reason, 
to be disparaged ; while wisdom, by virtue of its simplicity, its 
adaptability and efficiency, can always be safely brought to 
the test of utility. If a man had no more land than he could 
cultivate, his cares would be considerably narrowed, and others 
might then enjoy a competence also. But Laotze did not 
argue for a literal commonwealth. He was not a dead-leveller. 
He recognised the " diversity of gifts " in men, and he would 
only have circumscribed a man's possessions by his ability to 
use. He had no notion of plotting out the earth into equal 
holdings. Henry George was not his disciple. Laotze simjly 
specifies that the power to use is the only right to possess. 
Thus he takes his place in history as the first of Socialists, and 
possibly the wisest. Therefore if a man can use food, let him 
have enough ; if he use knowledge, let him take his fill. But 
if a man can use the Tao it will come to him of its own accord. 
There is nothing that the Tao cannot effect, and nothing 
that it does not use. Therefore he who has the Tao has more 


than his share of good things ; but he brings them to the 
service of the world. Having a superabundance, he can work 
without regard to his reward ; he can perfect his work and 
leave it for what it is and the good it may do ; all the merit 
being in the doing, not in the power to do or in what is done. 
And this merit he also foregoes, because he ascribes things to 
their right source. 



Nothing on earth is so weak and yielding as 
water, but for breaking down the firm and 
strong it has no equal. 

This admits of no alternative. 

AU the world knows that the soft can wear 
away the hard, and the weak can conquer the 
strong ; but none can carry it out in practice. 

Therefore the Sage says : He who bears 
the reproach of his country is really the lord 
of the land. He who bears the woes of the 
people is in truth their king. 

The words of truth are always paradox- 
ical 1 


The yielding nature of water is due to its incompressibility. 
Whether Laotze was aware of this fact is not certain, though 
we know that the Chinese were anciently informed of many 
scientific facts which were independently discovered many 
centuries later in the West. That he had good reason to know 
the irresistible strength of water is beyond a doubt, for he had 
lived on the banks of the Hwang-Ho. Yet although so strong 
and invincible, there is nothing more adaptable than water, 
and because of its adaptability it is everywhere in evidence. 
The element is a favoured one with Laotze, who often compares 
it to natural virtue. Everyone knows that the soft and weak 
can overcome the hard and strong, yet " none can carry it out 
in practice." So there is no great virtue in the knowledge. 
As already observed, it is possible for a man to have more 
knowledge than he can use. Surfeit is the characteristic of 
all ages in civilised countries, because civilisation accentuates 
the inequalities of individual faculty, and produces the greatest 
disparities of fortune, so that some have a surfeit of good things 
and others a surfeit of evils. All are in a bad way. Hence 
the knowledge is only a surfeit and a congestion. 

The fourth section of this chapter is one that might serve 
for the subject-matter of a separate and a larger work. Time 
after time we find, in following the track of the Sage's thought, 
that the mind is carried forward from the sixth century B.C. 
to the dawn of the Christian Era, and the person of the Old 
Philosopher assumes the proportions of a Greater Prophet, 
or a spiritual herald, sounding through the centuries these 
forewords of the new evangel ! One is tempted to ask the 
question : Had Laotze any foreknowledge of the great Advent ? 
Had he caught some rays from the new Light in advance of 
the Western world ? Or is it not that the Spirit of Truth is 
accessible to man in all ages and nations, and that although 
there is "a diversity of operations," it is ever "the same Spirit".'' 
Compared with certain passages of Isaiah, which are generally 
held to signify the ministry of Jesus Christ, and referred to 
the gospel narrative, these words of Laotze have a singular 
resonance and meaning (cf. Isa. liii.). 




When a compromise is effected after a long 
dispute, one of the parties retains a grudge : 
how can this be called a good settlement ? 

Therefore the wise man takes his part of 
the bond, and does not .insist upon having the 

The virtuous man attends only to his en- 
gagements in the bond, while the man without 
virtue contrives for his own advantage. 

The Tao of Heaven has no favourites ; it 
always aids the good man. 

" The wise man," says Laotze, " has a covert agreement with 
Heaven, by means of which he is a continual receiver and pre- 
server of good things." Being cautious, he does not rashly 
enter into a bond, though he is in agreement with all things. 
He attends to his own business, and does not stand in the way 
of others. What he risks he is prepared to lose, since he 
" takes his part of the bond, and does not insist on the other." 
He does his own duty, but does not compel others. He is 
under bond to Heaven, to his fellows, and to himself ; and to 


these he holds in justice, integrity, and patience, doing his 
work in the world, and claiming no merit therein. 

" Heaven has no favourites ; it always aids the good man," 
is a statement as true as it is witty. It is an affirmation of the 
law of Eternal Good ; it is in perfect agreement with the Scrip- 
ture saying — "All things work together for good to them that 
love God." 

If Heaven discerned between good and evil, the aiding of 
the good would be the result of deliberate choice and favour. 
But it cannot be so. Some things exist by Divine Will and 
others by Divine Indulgence. Only that which is good in 
things and persons can claim the recognition of Heaven, and 
whatever exists in this world depends upon that which is the 
potential good in it. But the virtuous man acts from this 
inherent goodness, the potentiality for good having become 
active in him ; but the evildoer acts only from the privation 
of goodness. We call that dark which is not light, and that 
evil which is not good ; but that there is good in things evil 
is the warrant of their existence. That is the good which 
Heaven "always aids,'' whatever is good in man or the world ; 
and of Goodness, Beauty, and Truth there is only one test — 
that of Harmony. It is the characteristic of everything Divine. 
We see it in the universe of worlds and in the laws which 
govern them. We see it in everything which is purely natural, 
and we see it in the lives of good men and women. This 
is the covert agreement which the good man has with Heaven. 
They both make for Harmony. 




If I had a small kingdom and but ten or a 
hundred men of ability, I would not adminis- 
trate with them. 

I would teach the people to look upon 
death as a grievous thing, and then they 
would not go abroad to meet it. 

Though they had boats and carriages, yet 
they would not go away in them. 

Though they had armour, yet they would 
never have occasion to wear it. 

The people should return to the use of the 

They should find their coarse food sweet, 
think their plain clothes grand, regard their 
homes as places of rest, and take delight in 
their own simple pleasures. 

Though the neighbouring state could be 


seen by us, and the crowing of the cocks and 
the barking of the dogs could be heard, 

Yet my people would grow old, and die 
before ever feeling the need of having inter- 
course with it. 

Our author wouJd have led his people back to their original 
simplicity of life and thought. He would not keep them in 
ignorance of what was essential to be known, but he would not 
give them learning which they could not use without hurt to 
themselves and their neighbours. He would not unfit them 
for their natural work, nor would he equip them for aught else. 
There would be no compulsion. He would teach them that 
Death was an enemy to the living, as greed is an enemy to 
possession. The people would therefore stay at home in 
regular enjoyment of their simple, honest, and contented lives, 
valuing that which they had rather than that which they had 
not, and regarding what is essential as of greater importance 
than what is fortuitous. They would hold to the incident of 
life and avoid the accident. They would ply upon their own 
rivers and traverse their own roads. The state would maintain 
friendly relations with its neighbours, indulgent to those that 
were smaller and submissive to those that were greater than it. 
Thus it would have patrons and adherents on every side of it. 
It would not obtrude in the affairs of others, nor would it strive 
for precedence. It would not, therefore, be aggressive. What 
it produced in excess of its needs, it would contribute to others 
whose produce was deficient. Its excellence would sustain 
defects of others. It would have many gates by which to come 
in, and only one by which to go out ; and because of its easy 
access none would use arms to invade it. Hence it would not 
be on the defensive, and would have no use for armour. 

"The people would return to the use of the quipu." This 



instrument consists of a series of coloured strings, and was 
used for reckoning and conveying information by means of 
knots tied in them. It was in ancient use in China, and also 
among the inhabitants of Mexico and Peru. It preceded the 
use of the calculus or pebble, but is probably not so ancient as 
the knotched stick, which also was used for the same purposes, 
the knotches taking the place of the knots. 

But let us return to our Utopia and the text. The people 
would go back to the use of such knowledges only as sufficed 
for the conduct of their daily lives ; and what was enough for 
the fathers of the race would prove enough for those living in 
like simplicity and virtue. Contentment and peace would 
characterise their lives. Avoiding excesses, they would also 
avoid disease, and living natural lives, they would die natural 

But of the Tao and the knowledge of celestial things, the 
Philosopher would sufficiently have informed them. " For who 
is he, that, having a superabundance, can bring it to the service 
of the world ? Only he who has the Tao ! " He would make 
his people wise as well as good ; and this union of wisdom and 
goodness, when related to the uses of daily life, is that which 
Laotze calls the Tao. 




Sincere words are not grand. 

Grand words are not faithful. 

The man of Tao does not dispute. 

They who dispute are not skilled in Tao. 

Those who know it are not learned. 

The learned do not know it. 

The wise man does not lay up treasure. 

The more he expends on others, the more 
he gains for himself. 

The more he gives to others, the more he 
has for his own. 

This is the Tao of Heaven, which penetrates 
but does not injure. 

This is the Tao of the wise man, who acts 
but does not strive. 


In this, his concluding chapter, the Old Philosopher arrays 
the evidences of simplicity, the guarantees of the man of Tao. 
His doctrine is to be distinguished by its sincerity and sim- 
plicity, and not by the grandeur of words. For even in his 
day the Truth was obscured by logic, and logic was lost in 
rhetoric. Although skilful in replying, the man of Tao is no 
controversialist. He is not learned. The Tao is his only 
authority. Where others lose themselves in a complex accre- 
tion of choice details, the man of Tao discerns only a dust- 
heap. What others call the Treasure-house of Knowledge, he 
calls the Great Lumber-room. He is economical in use, but 
not greedy in acquiring. His wealth consists in giving freely 
of what he has for his own, not in the acquisition of what is 
another's. He discerns the true nature of persons and things, 
but does not use that knowledge to the disadvantage of others ; 
or as Laotze says : He penetrates but does not injure ; he acts 
but does not strive. 

And with these words the Old Philosopher concluded his 
book on the Simple Way and continued his journey home. 


IN order to fully appreciate the singular purity of the 
doctrine of Laotze and its reactionary effect on con- 
temporary thought in China, it is necessary to refer to the 
religious system then dominant in the Empire, namely, 

It is believed to have been established under the pro- 
tection of the Chow Dynasty, which began in the person 
of Wu Wang, in 1 122 B.C. It had many of the elements 
of a natural religion, and certainly bears the marks of a 
gradual evolution of the religious idea, being wholly free 
from the encumbrance of a mythological development. Its 
central concept is that of Humanity being the offspring 
of Heaven and Earth ; whence arises the threefold division 
of the Spirits or Shins worshipped by the Chinese. 

The First Order, that of Celestial Spirits, is headed by 
Shang-ti, the Supreme Ruler of Heaven. Beneath this 
Supreme Intelligence are five other Rulers and a host of 
Celestial Intelligences, including the Spirits of the Sun and 
Stars, of the Moon and the Planets. 

The Second Order consists of Human Spirits, including 
the host of departed ancestors, and to these the most 
sincere respect was paid by the people and their rulers. 
The human being was said to have two souls : one of a 
celestial nature and origin, which, after death, went to 
Tien (Heaven), the other being of an earthly nature, to 
N 2 181 


which it reverted entirely after death. This is the reason 
for the expression "going up and down," used by the 
Chinese to signify death, or the separation of th6 celestial 
from the natural soul. The same idea is voiced in 
Solomon's Song (chap. xii. 7) : " Then shall the dust return 
to the earth, and the spirit to God who gave it." In the 
Testament writings also there is this expression: "Who 
knoweth the soul of the beast that goeth down, and the 
soul of man that ascendeth on high?" 

The souls of ancestors were worshipped in all sincerity 
and with many ceremonies, in the full beUef that the souls 
themselves were present at the sacrifices and pageant. 
Thus we find it stated in the Shu King that Yu Shun, the 
Emperor, after his accession to the throne, "received the 
conclusion in the temple of his accompUshed ancestor," 
and after his tour of the country "he came to the polite 
ancestor and made use of a single victim." 

The Third Order of Shins were the terrestrial or nature 
spirits, animating the four elements under a variety of 
forms, together with a vast array of peculiarly choice 
"blends" in the shape of winged beasts, fiery flying serpents, 
and other monsters, which some believe to have had actual 
existence in ancient times, although now extinct, but which 
were no doubt derived from composite types of the normal 
denizens of the four elements. These terrestrial spirits 
were said to be resident in the bodies of inanimate objects, 
and in animals of every kind, according to their several 
natures, though they were not visible to the human eye. 

No mention is made of evil spirits in this system of the 
Chow-li, nor are future rewards and punishments referred 
to, though the power of rewarding and punishing is certainly 
ascribed to Shang-ti, the Supreme Ruler of the Celestial 


World. Indeed, it seems to have been accepted as a matter 
of course that the superior part of man, his celestial soul, 
went, after death, to its own sphere ; and the inferior part, 
the terrestrial soul, to its lower sphere. Neither was called 
good or bad, but each was supposed to enjoy its own 
nature unaffected by either reward or punishment. But 
all earthly rewards and punishments were regarded as the 
decrees of Heaven, and this belief led the people into a 
stoical indifference to moral merit and demerit and dis- 
regard of their physical condition, while, on the other hand, 
it fostered servility and greatly aided the tyranny and 
oppression of unjust rulers. 

Thus, with not even the moderating effects of a popular 
belief in future reward or punishment to restrain worldly 
ambition or to stimulate public duty, the people would feel 
at liberty to indulge themselves on every possible occasion ; 
their chief, and perhaps only consideration, being to avoid 
the displeasure of those in authority above them. In the 
absence of any ethical system or any body of teaching 
which made direct appeal to the higher nature of man, it 
was only possible to expect a steady moral degeneration in 
which tyranny and oppression would be met with servility 
and deception. Desire for position and wealth would no 
doubt act as stimulants to action among the people, while 
fear of the loss of these advantages would tend to restrain 
their rulers. Of self-restraint, or of good done upon purely 
moral considerations, there can have been but little, the 
altruistic, sense being, in course of time, wholly obliterated 
or paralysed. 

There was not any recognised order of priesthood in 
that day in China. Public worship and festivals were 
conducted by those holding office as Ministers of State. 


Only the Emperor himself might sacrifice to the Supreme 
Spirit : only the Emperor and Princess to the spirits of the 
earth and harvest, and so on, a regular scale of ministra- 
tions being allotted to the various official degrees in the 
State. In connection with this State religion of the Chow 
Dynasty, we find records of magical practices, invocations 
to spirits, thaumaturgy, divination, and prognostics. It 
was the very quintessence of priestcraft and ritualistic 
imposture. Originally it held, doubtless, the elements of 
a good and healthy system of thought and practice, but 
as those in authority gradually warped it to their own selfish 
purposes, it became more and more the depository of all 
that was pernicious and degenerate. Instead of ministering 
to the spiritual needs of the people, it was used as a means 
to feed the ambition and avarice of their rulers. 

Such, then, was the State religion into which the Apostle 
of Simplicity was born. The particular line of mental and 
spiritual evolution by which Laotze came into possession 
of this purely moral doctrine of the Too will never be 
traced; but it was in the capacity of Royal Librarian, 
possibly, that he had access to the fragments of a then 
ancient code, of which the world has since lost all original 
record, save that ' contained in the compilations of Con- 
fucius, where it is mentioned, and the present work, in 
which it is stated anew. Laotze frequently refers to " the 
ancients," and appears to have known something of their 
beliefs and methods of life, to the original simplicity and 
virtue of which his whole teaching tends. 

This teaching must be judged on its own merits as an 
ethical system in relation to the conditions of life to which 
it was intended to apply. It cannot be said to be an 
evolution of the age in which the 01(1 Philosopher lived) 


as was the contemporary teaching of Confucius, and which 
may be regarded as a revival of all that was originally 
intended by the State religion of the Chow-li; neither did 
it lend itself to a sympathetic reception by the followers 
of the Shinto religion. Rather must it be regarded as an 
inspiration, and it was not long before it came to be regarded 
and popularly received in that light. Its peculiarity consists 
in its great purity, simplicity, and altruism — qualities which 
by no means distinguished the age and country in which it 
was enunciated — while its close rapport with the teachings 
of Christianity entitle it to the highest esteem by all who 
are favourably disposed to the gbspel of peace and goodwill. 
Considering the conditions under which it was delivered, 
we cannot but regard the doctrine of the Simple Way 
with the deepest interest, and although we know practically 
nothing of Laotze apart from his book and the later writings 
of Chuang-Tze, his follower, it is impossible to read it through 
even once without catching some very vivid glimpses of the 
benevolent old man. 

And from all we see, the man and his book are in accord 
with his teaching. Apart from the merits of the doctrine, 
the mere writing of this book at such an advanced age— its 
lucidity of expression, its glancing wit, its profound depth, 
its brevity, simplicity, and candour — must secure to Laotze 
the credit of an unique Uterary achievement. Judged by 
the standard of merit contained in the last chapter of this 
book, Laotze's work is justified. 

In regard to the doctrine itself, one may judge from a 
thoughtful study of the original enunciation, or that form in 
which it was dehvered by its early promulgators, far better 
than by a study of that modern admixture of Shintoism 
and Buddhism which is current under the name of Taoism, 


and which cannot rightly be regarded as constituting an 
expression of the pure teaching of Laotze. 

Of the qualities which distinguish a pure religious teach- 
ing, Lecky writes with great discernment, for such teaching 
is not solely to be judged by its corporate action, by the 
institutions which it creates, by the part which it plays in 
the government of the world without. " It is to be found," 
he says, "much more in its action on the individual soul, 
and especially in those times when man is most isolated 
from society. It is in furnishing the ideas and motives of 
individual life, in guiding and purifying the emotions, in 
promoting habits of thought and feeling that rise above 
the things of earth; in the comfort it can give in age, 
sorrow, disappointment, and bereavement; in the seasons 
of sickness, weakness, declining faculty, and approaching 
death — it is in these that its power is most felt." 

Regarded in this light, the teaching of Laotze does not 
suffer by comparison with any of the great religious systems 
of the world, and when the question is finally forced upon 
our consideration, as to where our modern civilisation is 
leading us, it is to some expression of the doctrine of 
Original Simplicity that our great thinkers will inevitably 

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